With shorter days, adverse weather conditions and the Beast from the East predicted to strike again, safety concerns are at an all-time high this year. Even the most cautious of HGV drivers are at risk, which is precisely why you need to adapt the way you drive during this time.
To ensure that you are ready for the roads this winter, we have put together some of our top tips to help you drive safely.
How can drivers stay safe on the roads during winter weather?
Plan ahead and stay up to date
Before you even think about hitting the road, checking the status of your journey beforehand is essential.
Waze is a great app to use to help avoid any problem areas or traffic caused by winter accidents. It offers real-time updates that are generated by other road users. What’s more, the app will send you these updates whilst you are on the road and it can even redirect your journey to make sure that you are following the safest route.
The app is available on both Apple and Android phones, be sure to download it here.
Prepare your vehicle for the bad weather
HGVs can be challenging to drive during bad weather conditions, so it’s essential that you check your vehicle is fit to drive beforehand. Although you may already check your vehicle daily, during winter you need to pay extra special attention to prevent potential issues from arising.
What do you need to check?
- Tires for wear, pressure, and balance
- Battery power and charging system
- Windscreen wipers are working and free from ice and snow
- Fluid levels are topped up
- Lights are fully functional – including marker lights
- Exhaust, to ensure it is clear of snow
- Defrosters, to ensure they are functional
Increase your stopping distances
When driving in wet, snowy or icy conditions, increasing your stopping distance is essential, as it allows you to have greater control over your vehicle. In wet weather, the stopping distances are double the requirement for stopping on dry roads. In icy and snowy conditions, your stopping distance could be up to ten times more than normal.
Of course, these are the recommended stopping distances for different weather conditions, but there are a number of factors that will further impact your stopping distance. Make sure you consider these too!
- The speed at which you’re travelling
- The road and weather conditions
- The condition of your vehicle’s brakes and tyres
- The weight of your vehicle - Trucks usually take longer to stop than a car would in the same conditions.
Light up in fog
Because visibility is significantly reduced during foggy weather conditions, using fog lights is absolutely critical when driving. Just like driving in wet weather, HGV drivers should always keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front, especially because rear lights can be misguiding when there’s fog on the road.
Pile-ups are common in fog, so if your HGV breaks down for some reason, you should immediately inform the authorities and get the vehicle removed from the road.
Drive slowly and steer gradually
When driving in ice or snow, slowing down is absolutely vital to ensure you have maximum control over your vehicle. Avoid following the maximum speed of the road, as the probability of skidding is much higher.
Avoid any sudden movements including sudden turning, braking or accelerating, as doing so will result in a loss of control over your vehicle.
Don't be 'gone with the wind'
High-sided vehicles such as HGVs can be extremely dangerous, as they are extremely vulnerable to strong gusts of wind, which can overturn them. In fact, Curtainsider HGVs (trucks with a trailer and curtains) are at the greatest risk of over overturning. For this reason, it is important that you open and fasten the panel curtains to reduce the impact and drag of the wind on the vehicle.
You should always remember to do the following when encountering strong winds on the road:
- Slow down immediately and keep both hands on the steering wheel at all times to maintain maximum control of the vehicle. Identify the closest safe place to park.
- In low visibility, be extra attentive to your surroundings. In particular, pay attention to other vehicles sharing the road as well as the width, curve of the road.
- Apply defensive driving skills to ascertain whether the wind has any effect on other moving vehicles, or on your own vehicle.
- Increase your following distance to other vehicles
Winter weather can be unpredictable, so preparing your vehicle, driving with the weather in mind and leaving plenty of time to make your journey will make a significant difference.
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