Fleet SOS: How to gear up your fleet this winter
Scott Chesworth, operations director at RAM Tracking, looks at how to prepare fleet vehicles for winter driving.
Winter is here, and with shorter daylight hours, unpredictable weather and an increased demand for deliveries, the season proves a challenging time for fleet professionals. With half a million vehicles predicted to break down in December – an unnerving statistic for couriers dealing with the Black Friday and Christmas rush – winter is a critical season for fleet managers to be more vigilant in both protecting the welfare of their employees and maintaining their fleets. By utilising technology, as well as a little forward thinking, it is possible to winter-proof your fleet to maximise safety and minimise disruption.
Before even leaving the depot, maintenance checks should be carried out on all vehicles to drive down costs and keep the fleet safe. Although winter tyres are not a legal requirement in the UK, it can be worth the investment as they may provide better braking and traction on wet roads and in snowy and ice conditions. Similarly, it’s vital to check the pressure of tyres regularly – whether winter tyres have been used or not – as pressure can be affected by changes in temperature. Neglecting to check tyre pressure can prove economically damaging, as deflated tyres can wear and tear faster than normal, leading to increased rolling resistance and higher fuel use. While businesses may be initially cautious about investing large amounts of capital in winter tyres, the benefit is ensuring your fleet can keep driving on even in the harshest of weather conditions, safely and economically.
Technology continues to advance and innovate within the motor industry and it is an effective tool for fleet managers, drivers and customers during the winter season. For managers, a piece of tech such as a GPS tracking system can relay the locations of vehicles in real-time, allowing them to only use those drivers closest to depots or delivery addresses. This can create a more streamlined and safe delivery schedule, which in turn makes delivery targets more achievable and reduces stress for both the managers and drivers.
As end customer satisfaction is a key goal for businesses, technology in fleet management can be utilised to keep the customer happy. Last year, shoppers spent £968m on Cyber Monday, putting a great strain on distribution and delivery networks, and this year that figure is expected to increase. Tracking systems can keep consumers informed on the whereabouts of their delivery, as well as offer more accurate delivery times, providing an opportunity for fleet managers to enrich their customers experience and help build brand trust.
Telematics can also be a protective tool for the driver. Systems can send email alerts to managers if a vehicle has been stationary for a set time, raising the alarm that the driver may be in danger. As weather conditions in winter can be more hazardous, simple features like this allow employees greater peace of mind when working as lone operators.
Fleet managers have a duty of care to drivers and installing emergency kits in vehicles can help achieve this. With news that a car broke down every six seconds during November and December last year, supplies should be kept in the cabin to keep drivers safe in the case of an emergency. Warm clothes, reflective jackets, shovels, torches and ice scrapers should form the basis of the kit, aiding employees if their vehicle was to break down or get caught in traffic for extended periods of time.
Slowing the fleet down
With more clients and consumers expecting next day delivery options, the pressure is on for drivers to deliver on-time, increasing temptation to break the speed limit driving to and from jobs. Speeding in normal circumstances is illegal and extremely dangerous however, add icy roads and poor visibility and driving above the limit becomes much riskier. Therefore, it is imperative for managers to encourage their staff to drive at the correct speed at all times.
To encourage safe driving, education is key. Reminding drivers that speed is one of the main factors in fatal road accidents can often provoke an emotional response, encouraging them to slow down when behind the wheel. However, if this approach fails to evoke behavioural change, monitoring drivers’ speeding habits through GPS tracking systems can be an effective option. Speeding reports compiled by GPS tracking software can intelligently inform management live which workers are driving within the limit, which drivers are going too fast as well as easily identify any repeat offenders. Rewarding safer drivers and better educating those that speed can leave logistics managers confident that their drivers are acting safely and legally during dangerous weather conditions.
While predicting the British weather is a challenge in itself, it’s always best to be prepared for harsh conditions to ensure your fleet keeps ploughing on this winter. Keeping workers safe should be a top priority for all employers – something which can be achieved through conscientious planning and utilising available technologies.