Prepare Your Fleet for Winter
As the weather turns cool and road conditions become precarious, fleet safety should be a top priority for fleet managers everywhere. Driving requires preparation and care at this time of year, as poor road conditions and bad weather increase the risk of collisions and breakdowns. Today we’re going to explore the steps you can take to winter-proof your fleet and keep your vehicles safely on the road when the cold weather hits.
Winter Maintenance Checks
You should consistently manage the maintenance of your fleet vehicles throughout the year, but it is particularly important to ramp up the thoroughness of your checks in the winter months to ensure your vehicles are prepared.
You should check tyres frequently to ensure they are roadworthy, and consideration should be given to whether your vehicles require winter-certified tyres, particularly if your fleet operates in remote areas where the roads are likely to be ungritted. The tread of specialist winter tyres hardens as the temperature drops, allowing vehicles to navigate ice and snow more effectively than regular tyres. Tyres are essential for safe steering and braking, and you should inspect the tread frequently to ensure it meets the minimum legal requirements.
Engines & Batteries
Engine inspections should increase during winter, particularly for vehicles that make regular long-haul journeys. Anti-freeze should be replenished sufficiently, and batteries inspected. For added protection, ensure your vehicle batteries are no older than five years, as older batteries may struggle to hold charge at low temperatures.
Inspecting and cleaning the exterior of your vehicles will aid in protecting them from the elements. Remove dirt and dust with a high-pressure washer and apply wax to repel snow and salt. Ensure vehicles are well stocked with a winter-suitable screenwash to keep the windscreens from freezing over and free from dirt.
Fuel and Fuel Storage Maintenance
You must give care not only to your vehicles during winter but to your fuel dispensing and storage systems – mainly if your fleet operates on diesel. Diesel is prone to solidifying into a crystalline state – often referred to as ‘waxing’ or ‘gelling’. Cold temperatures can cause solid wax particles to form, thickening the oil and clogging fuel filters and lines. The addition of a winter fuel additive in advance of a cold snap will help keep your diesel fuel pumps operating smoothly.
Bunded fuel tanks should be inspected for water and sludge, and you should remove anything other than fuel through a thorough clean. Consider having samples of your fuel analysed to ensure it is in good condition, and if necessary, filter the fuel to remove any unwanted water or contaminants. Treat your tanks with a winter fuel additive, ensuring it is well circulated throughout the tank.
Emergency Packs for Drivers
To ensure the safety of your fleet drivers whilst they are out on the roads during winter, provide them with a comprehensive onboard emergency kit. These essential items will be incredibly useful in the event of a vehicle breakdown. Packs should include:
- A Hi-Vis Jacket
- A powerful torch
- Ice scraper
- A well-stocked first-aid kit
- Emergency contact information.
Now is an excellent time to provide refresher training on driving best practices to ensure your drivers understand their responsibilities in making allowances for severe weather conditions. In addition, training should emphasise the importance of safety on the roads, particularly in winter, in the interests of keeping the drivers and other road users safe. Drivers should be encouraged to:
- Check the weather forecast so they can prepare for adverse road conditions.
- Perform vehicle checks before embarking on a long journey. This may include inspecting tyre tread, brake lines, all windows and mirrors, fluid levels, exhaust systems, and the vehicle’s body.
- Check to ensure they have the right equipment before setting out, including the emergency kit, warm clothing, a road atlas and an in-vehicle phone charger.
- Ensure they have a thorough understanding of the pre-planned route they will be taking.
How Does Winter Affect Fleet Efficiency?
You may already be aware that fuel efficiency – and, as a result, fleet efficiency – suffer during the winter months. This is a combination of many things – driving style changes as drivers adapt to the harsh road conditions, selecting lower gears, slowing down more frequently and perhaps the biggest culprit: idling.
Vehicle idling is far more common in winter, and many use it as a method to warm up the cold interior of their vehicle before embarking on a journey. However, your drivers should resist the temptation to leave the engine running whilst the vehicle is stationary since it is detrimental to fuel efficiency; an idling engine gets zero miles to the gallon.
A sound fuel management system will monitor and provide you with all the data you need to see how much fuel your vehicles are consuming and help flag up issues with unnecessary fuel consumption through practices like idling.
The safety of your drivers, vehicles and fuel should always be a priority, but it needs particularly close care in winter. If you would like more information about how Fueltek’s products can help you manage your fleet’s efficiency all year round, contact us today for more information.