If the Beast from the East descends as it is predicted to this year, these tips for winter HGV driving will help to keep you safe on the roads whatever the weather. 13% of all serious collisions involve poor weather and almost 80% of those involve rain.
HGV drivers face significant threats from winter road conditions because their vehicles are so much larger and heavier than others. This list of winter driving checks and tips will help to keep those threats to a minimum and keep your drivers safe.
It also pays to keep at least a quarter of a tank of fuel at all times in case you find yourself stranded or stuck in traffic jams or need to take lengthy diversions due to road closures.
Carry out your daily walkaround vehicle checks but pay particular attention to:
MHF (UK) Ltd offers HGV winter check-ups which will help you to ensure that your vehicle is in the best possible condition for winter driving.
Before setting off drivers must be able to see, so make sure you clear all snow, frost and ice from all windows – and from areas such as the roof, where it could otherwise fall off in to the path of other drivers. This is a stipulation of rule 229 in the Highway Code. It goes on to add that a driver must ensure that all lights are clean and number plates are clearly legible. Mirrors and windows must be demisted thoroughly.
Whilst planning your route a good tip is to build in allowances for a longer journey time. Winter driving can be especially complicated for HGV drivers as road closures and blockages could mean lengthy alternative routes as not all roads can accommodate HGVs.
Make sure you check weather conditions and get weather information for your route before setting off. It is also essential that you keep up to date with changing weather conditions via your radio or any apps that you use and by calling in to base regularly. The highway code (rule 228) requires drivers to check local forecasts and be sure not to drive in adverse weather conditions unless a journey is essential.
Having a good telematics system makes keeping in touch with your team really easy. Knowing where your drivers are and their routes makes it easier for alternative route planning.
The key rule to remember is to reduce your pace and give yourself space. Careful driving will give you the chance to respond to weather hazards, where sudden sharp movements can be even more dangerous than in normal driving conditions.
It’s also worth remembering that getting in and out of the cab of an HGV can become hazardous in winter as steps can become slippery with ice. Always maintain three points of contact when using the steps to avoid falling and wear a high visibility jacket, especially in poor driving conditions.
Driving on winter roads can be unnervingly quiet if there’s black ice. A thin, transparent layer of ice will make the road look wet but a tell-tale sign is that there won’t be any spray from other vehicles.
Always drive with dipped lights in fog and driver slowly. Fog causes limited visibility and can be disorientating when driving.
Aquaplaning is especially dangerous when driving an HGV given the sheer size and weight of the vehicle. If you should start aquaplaning you must slow down and hold the steering wheel straight, easing off the accelerator whilst avoiding heavy braking.
Whatever the conditions that you’re driving in make sure that you know when to stop driving (and accept that the conditions are too challenging and dangerous). Safety should always come first. Try to find a safe place to stop, preferably at a service station rather than just on the road side.
Although the focus of this article has been winter HGV driving, it is good practice to be aware of hazards presented during other seasons. Fallen leaves in Autumn can cause slippery road surfaces and also hide pot holes etc in the road. Dark mornings and low sun can dazzle drivers in Spring and Autumn too.
Don’t wait for winter, practice safe driving throughout the year.