Guest Column | October 17, 2022

How Your Hauling Operation Can Prepare For Winter Weather

By Emily Newton, Revolutionized

Managing Your Field Operations In Hazardous Weather

Fleets should start preparing now for the incoming winter. Snow, ice, wind, and other hazards can pose significant threats to your drivers and cargo, so you should do all you can to mitigate them. The more you prepare for winter weather, the better you can serve clients amid peak seasons and keep employees safe.

Even experienced fleet managers can overlook critical safety steps, just as veteran drivers can still make mistakes. Here are seven steps your hauling operation can take to prepare for winter.

Review Winter Driving Tips

One of the most important steps to take in preparing for winter is going over good driving practices with your drivers. The vast majority of crashes stem from unsafe behavior. Given how much more hazardous roads can be in the winter, it’s a good time to review some safety tips.

About 19.1% of vehicle crashes come from excessive speeds, so driving slowly is a particularly important step. Drivers should also leave more room between other vehicles, brake gently, and avoid using jake brakes on icy roads.

You should also go over necessary pre-trip inspections with drivers. Truckers should know to inspect their tires and fluid levels and keep windshields, windows, and lights clean before starting their journeys.

Keep Trucks In Prime Condition

Another crucial step is to maintain all the vehicles in your fleet. You should practice preventive maintenance year-round, but the incoming winter provides the perfect opportunity to ensure all trucks are in good condition.

Checking lights, brakes, and power steering systems are some of the most important maintenance steps. You should also ensure fluid levels are sufficient and free of leaks and that defrosters are working correctly. If any trucks are coming up on due dates for routine fixes like oil changes or tire rotations, do that as soon as possible.

Remember that winter maintenance starts before the season does. Some trucks may need repairs that take time, so you should inspect them and schedule maintenance well before you have to worry about poor road conditions.

Winterize Vehicles

Trucks need some specific adjustments for winter weather on top of this regular maintenance. Even if your hub of operations is in a warm area, you must winterize any vehicles that could travel across snowy or icy areas.

Batteries are sensitive to cold temperatures, so they’re one of the most important components to address. Test all batteries to ensure they’re charging properly and have no corrosion. Replace any that fall short of standards. You should also replace the wipers, which degrade faster in the cold.

Check all tires’ treads to ensure they’ll provide sufficient grip. You may want to switch to snow tires if you have routes in particularly cold areas. Similarly, you may wish to change your antifreeze to a 70:30 ratio instead of the standard 50:50.

Establish Reliable Communication Systems

Conditions can change quickly in the winter, so you may have to adjust on the spot. Those adjustments are far easier when you can make them quickly, which relies on fast, effective communication.

Drivers need a reliable way to communicate with operations hubs and vice versa. That way, if anything unexpected happens, all parties can coordinate to make the necessary adjustments. These plans require at least two mediums of communication as well as standard protocol for whom to contact in different situations.

Telematics solutions can help establish these communication systems. These technologies can transmit vehicle locations at all times and even in real time so everyone stays informed of potential issues. These devices don’t require any action from drivers to notify managers, so they’re an ideal way to improve communications.

Test Loading Practices

Your fleet vehicles may get the most attention, but they’re not the only thing to consider when preparing for winter weather. It’s also important to ensure your cargo stays safe as your drivers take it over uneasy terrain. A great but often overlooked way to address this is to test your loading procedures.

Acceleration test systems can simulate acceleration and turning to reveal how your unit loads hold up under these conditions. Running these tests will highlight if you need to rethink how you load trucks or stack boxes. You can then adjust your practices as necessary to ensure sharp turns or harsh braking won’t damage the products you ship.

These tests are helpful in any season, but they’re particularly important in the winter, when icy conditions may make harsh driving patterns more likely. As with maintenance steps, ensure you perform these checks before winter so you can adjust in time.

Plan Routes Carefully

Another easily overlooked step is paying attention to your truckers' routes. The fastest paths to some destinations may change as snow and ice hazards become more likely. Severe weather could even render some roads too unsafe to be worth potential time savings.

Keep an eye on the weather when you’re planning routes in snowy areas. Truckers driving in warmer parts of the country may not need any adjustment, but more northern or remote roads can turn dangerous in a winter storm. If there’s a chance of a snowstorm on one of these paths, it may be best to find an alternate route.

Planning for slower deliveries may help, too. Even on the same routes, your drivers may not be able to go as fast as normal, so account for longer trips.

Equip Drivers With Emergency Kits

Regardless of how much you prepare for winter, you can’t avoid every hazard. The weather can be unpredictable, and more than 70% of the nation’s roads are in snowy areas, so it’s unwise to assume truckers will never encounter an accident. You can’t always avoid these situations, but you can mitigate them by equipping drivers with emergency kits.

Every driver should carry an emergency kit that includes:

  • Warm clothes or blankets
  • Road flares
  • A first-aid kit
  • Food and water
  • Jumper cables
  • A flashlight
  • Sand or cat litter
  • A phone recharger or radio

Standard equipment like spare tires, jumper cables, and windshield scrapers are also important. Some of this may seem excessive initially, but it's better to have it and not need it than the other way around.

Prepare For Winter To Prevent Emergencies

Winter can bring risks, but it doesn't have to be dangerous. Follow these steps to prepare for winter weather and protect your drivers and cargo. As long as you plan thoroughly and long enough in advance, you’ll have nothing to worry about.

About The Author

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized. She regularly explores the impact technology has on the industrial sector.