Winter is upon us and that means unpredictable and often dangerous driving conditions. And while private vehicles can usually stay off the road when the weather gets bad, the public depends upon trucks to keep their delivery schedules. Fortunately, fleet managers can use a combination of traditional fleet winterization procedures and modern fleet management software to keep their vehicles moving safety.
For most areas of the country, fleet winterization begins in October or, at the latest, November. Early preparation is especially important now that climate change is making extreme weather, including violent snow and ice storms, more common. Unseasonable weather of any kind should be expected. Winterization involves changes to maintenance schedules, training procedures, and day-to-day management. Modern software solutions help in all these areas.
There are two aspects to winterizing maintenance practices. Obviously, the trucks themselves must be prepared for cold weather. That includes making sure that coolant and antifreeze types are appropriate for expected conditions and that cab heaters and block heaters work properly. It is also important to drain any built-up water from the system on days when temperatures are above freezing.
But a more general mechanical check-up is also in order because a major breakdown during a storm could turn a truck into an obstacle for other vehicles to hit, or even put the driver’s life in danger. Each carrier’s maintenance department should develop its own winterization checklist appropriate to the type of vehicles it runs and the type of hauls its drivers take on. Vehicle diagnostics software makes this process easier and cheaper by keeping track of fault codes and engine diagnostics. If a problem develops, managers can spot it and address it before an actual breakdown occurs.
Driving on ice or snow is an art that much of the driving public does not possess. Because truck drivers are professionals, and because their vehicles are so much heavier and can cause so much more damage than ordinary cars, it is their responsibility to be as safe as humanly possible. Carriers need to make sure their drivers know how much stopping distance their vehicles need on snow, where ice is likely to linger, and other winter survival tips. Safety analytics software can help with winter training, since it keeps track of how well drivers perform in real time. Managers can see who is exemplary and who needs additional training, and can even play back recordings of incidents as training aids.
Ultimately, it is not just the maintenance department and the drivers who need to change things up for the winter, but also fleet managers. In the event of a storm, it is management who must contact the customer to warn then that a delivery could be delayed. It is also management who must tell drivers to stop and park if conditions become too dangerous. Sometimes drivers go too fast for conditions or keep working when it isn’t safe because they fear disciplinary action if they are late. Fortunately, the two-way communication feature of fleet management software packages makes it easier for drivers to communicate with their supervisors when conditions change.
Fleet management software improves communication between trucks, drivers, and their employers so that the entire company can work as a team. When a big winter storm strikes, good teamwork can be the key, not just to keep cargo moving, but also to everyone getting home safe.