We all know that winter weather brings an increased risk of collisions and traffic accidents. All you need to do is drive down the interstate the day after a storm and count the cars, trucks, and SUVs in the ditch. And there are usually a few semis too!
It might be surprising to learn that snow days have fewer fatal accidents than dry days, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health. Factors such as slower speed and fewer cars on the road may contribute to this stat. But one thing is certain, snow is not good for commercial fleets.
While you can’t keep the snow from falling, there are a few steps you can take to reduce the risks. Here are some winter driving tips to share with your fleet and your drivers.
You may get push-back from stubborn veteran drivers who feel they don’t need to review winter driving techniques. Do it anyway, it’s far too important. Schedule a meeting or one-on-one conversations to review the most important winter driving habits and techniques. Be sure to remind all of your drivers, no matter how experienced, of your expectations throughout the winter season.
Be sure to emphasize speed reduction during icy conditions. Remind them that cruise control should not be used if roads are slick. Go over safe practices like leaving plenty of distance between vehicles, slowing and accelerating slowly, and remind them to be cautious when approaching bridges.
Your discussion should also include a brief review of black ice. Include what it is and why it’s so dangerous. Black ice is essentially a thin layer of ice on the road. It’s nearly invisible, making it a common contributor to winter accidents.
Safe winter driving doesn’t just happen behind the wheel. It starts before you put the truck in gear. After a snow or ice storm, vehicles need specific care to ensure safe driving. Remind drivers to clear off windows, mirrors, and lights before they roll down the highway. This means they will need to give themselves added time to not only warm up the vehicle, but to prepare the outside for driving.
You never know what can happen in winter emergencies. If your driver slides into a ditch and becomes stranded, he or she will be counting on the engine to keep running so the cab can stay warm. As a safety measure, encourage your drivers to fill up when they reach half a tank. This might seem like an overly cautious safety measure, but it could be a life saver, especially if your drivers are traveling in remote areas of the country.
One of the important steps you need to take is to make sure all of your vehicles are fully stocked with the right winter tools, gear, and equipment. All of your trucks should have a quality ice scraper, preferably with a long handle so it can reach the windshields. They should also have brushes for removing snow that has piled up near the windows and lights. Have each vehicle equipped with a snow shovel and a flashlight.
In case of an emergency, it helps to have the trucks loaded with at least a one-day supply of non-perishable food and water, as well as a fully-stocked first-aid kit.
A Marquette accident analysis looked at the crash rates before, during, and after the spreading of salt on roads and highways. The analysis found that after salt has been used, crashes are reduced by nearly 90 percent. To be clear, the study was sponsored by The Salt Institute, a nonprofit organization whose stated mission is “advocating the many benefits of salt,” especially on winter roads.
However, the study indicates that driving after a winter storm begins but before salt is laid is the most dangerous time. Data from a German study, which was cited in the analysis, showed that in the first hour of salt spreading, accident rates drop significantly. By the third hour, accident levels have returned to previous (non-storm) rates.
As a fleet manager or company owner, encourage or mandate your drivers to pull over when a storm starts and allow for the salt trucks to do their work.