Operating your HGV throughout the winter
It’s not over yet. The very dead of winter may have been passed, for this year at least – but it is by no means over.
The months ahead may still bring their fair share of snow, ice, floods and high winds – all of which make driving conditions challenging and none the more so than for HGVs. Just one illustration of what high winds can do to a lorry is captured in a photograph of an upturned vehicle published recently by the Telegraph newspaper .
With wintry conditions in mind, therefore, what are some of the considerations to be kept in mind by HGV owners and their drivers?
As the owner of the vehicle or vehicles, regular maintenance and road worthiness checks are of course an important part of your normal routine – failure to keep your HGV in a road worthy condition, for example, may not only get you in trouble with the police but might also invalidate your HGV insurance.
In the more challenging and punishing conditions of winter, proper maintenance is even more important.
With traction being especially important, special care needs to be taken with the vehicle’s tyres – inflation pressures, depth of tread, and the possible use of snow tyres.
When managing delivery schedules, you may also need to take into account the longer journey times when there are adverse weather conditions. Your planning of schedules and itineraries also needs to take into account the weather reports and forecasts for the areas in question, paying particular attention to any severe weather warnings that may have been issued by the Met Office and are currently in force.
As the operator, you also have a responsibility for ensuring that your drivers are adequately trained, briefed and prepared for driving in severe weather conditions.
Many of the requirements are matters of common sense – ensuring, for example, that all windows and not just the windscreen are completely clear of snow and ice.
Speed needs to be reduced to suit the road conditions and braking distances are going to be considerably longer, to avoid any risk of sudden or abrupt braking – an especially dangerous manoeuvre on icy roads. Remember, too, that road markings and traffic signs may be obscured by snow, removing the usual hazard warnings.
When conditions are especially bad and there is a risk of becoming stranded, your cab might become something akin to a survival capsule. Essential equipment and provisions therefore need to be in the cab and might include:
- some strong sacking – to place under the wheels for extra traction if the vehicle gets stuck;
- a shovel – for use in the same conditions;
- warm clothing and a blanket;
- a flask of hot tea or coffee and some food;
- a mobile phone and charger; and
- sunglasses – to counter the glare which you are likely to encounter when a lot of snow lies on the ground in bright daylight.
Winter is not yet over, but there is never likely to be a time to put your HGV fleet into hibernation. Ensuring that you and your drivers are prepared for the worst the weather may still throw at you may help to ensure that you continue to operate safely.