Don’t freeze your safety standards in the cold, icy weather

With over 70% of the nation’s roadways located in snowy regions, staying safe on the road during the cold, wet and harsh winter months means much more than keeping hands at 10 and 2 and checking mirrors periodically. As driving conditions deteriorate to anything but ideal this time of year, fleets and drivers rely on safety technology paired with a comprehensive safety program as defining factors to navigate the winter months unscathed. Many fleets turn to a video-safety program as an essential tool that allows managers to proactively address risky driving behavior early and intervene with targeted driver coaching to ensure roadway safety. 

During their cross-country treks, drivers are likely to encounter rain, sleet, snow and ice. As winter weather and poor driving conditions are universal concerns, we’ve outlined the top tips to consider before embarking on your next journey in inclement weather.

Having a defined Stop Work Authority program means recognizing fatigue and empowering drivers to make the decision to stop driving for safety reasons. Management should support their employees to know when they need to pull off the road—whether because of fatigue, weather or road conditions. If drivers start to feel the effects of snow blindness or simply need to take a moment to rest their eyes, they should be cognizant of their condition and know they have permission to pull off the road and rest. Video-based safety programs can help identify fatigued and drowsy drivers before the situation becomes dangerous.

Staying ahead of ever-changing weather conditions and forecasts is key to keeping drivers out of trouble. When fleet managers are monitoring road conditions, it’s important to know where drivers are headed and expected travel timelines. It is also imperative to encourage drivers to stay on well-travelled highways and streets, which are more likely to be plowed and maintained. As managers stay on top of weather forecasts from state truck associations and other sources, this information should be shared—post it in terminals and disseminate directly to drivers. Similarly, drivers should be encouraged to share with management and fellow drivers first-hand information on road and weather conditions. Over communication is critical—it takes a team to keep everyone safe.

Another key to staying safe is conducting a thorough equipment check before starting every trip. A pre-trip checklist is a great way to confirm road readiness—make sure windshield wipers are working and effective; remove any snow build up on tractors and trailers; check fluid and fuel levels; and ensure tires and snow chains are in perfect condition. Drivers should also stock the cabin with survival supplies like water, food, dry goods, an emergency kit and a flashlight. It is also smart to keep a basic tool kit handy so that minor field repairs can be handled quickly. Keep coveralls, gloves, snow boots and possibly even a portable heater at the ready to ensure preparedness to face outside conditions, if necessary. Drivers should also keep their cell phones fully charged, but out of reach to avoid distracted driving.

In addition to the above safety tips, fleets should also make sure drivers are trained on how to operate in winter conditions—slowing down and allowing more space between their vehicles and surrounding cars. Fleets should continue reviewing bad driving habits triggered from their video-based safety program and address with targeted coaching to avoid potential collisions.

When drivers are mentally present behind the wheel—remaining focused on the road and adapting driving behavior based on changing conditions—the risk of collision is significantly reduced. Mother Nature can often dish out her worst during the winter months, but with a dedicated safety program, and attentive drivers and safety managers, fleets can make sure everyone returns home safely.

This article was originally posted by American Trucker.