If drivers absolutely have to make a journey – and in the case of fleet drivers, that’s more often the case than not, in order for the business to keep running – they need to be fully prepared for whatever conditions they might encounter.
A little preparation (and some advanced driving skills) can ensure fleet drivers stay on the road – and not end up stuck at the side of it when winter does its worst.
The best way for drivers to deal with winter driving conditions is to know what they’re likely to encounter on their journey, so checking the weather forecast and assessing potential trouble spots along the route is important.
Before setting off, drivers should also allocate 10 minutes to de-ice or clear snow from the windscreen – and any snow on the vehicle will also need to be completely cleared, using a brush.
Slow and steady
The best tactic when driving on snowy or icy roads is to take things slowly: stopping distances could be up to 10 times longer, so gentle manoeuvres are the key to safe driving. If drivers do need to apply their brakes, they should do so gently, releasing them and de-clutching if the car skids.
Drivers need to be in full control of their vehicle at all times, so they should try to get a feel for the road conditions. This can be achieved by performing basic tasks such as testing brakes on flat sections of road, slowing down well in advance of bends and junctions, ensuring that there’s plenty of space between themselves and the car in front (especially if the car behind is too close), and staying alert to the behaviour of other road users.
When drivers arrive at their destination, they should try to look for a parking place that offers a gentle downhill slope to help them when they set off again. At the same time, they should avoid stopping at the bottom of a hill, where another car could lose control and slide into theirs.
What to do in a skid
The key to controlling a skid control is to avoid one in the first place, so drivers need to anticipate any areas that could be slippery, manage their speed carefully, and steer and brake smoothly.
But if all those measures still don’t save drivers from hitting a patch of ice, slush or snow, they should resist the temptation to brake until the car regains some grip and use minimal steering inputs. The other trick is for drivers to keep their eyes focused on the direction in which they were headed, as their hands will instinctively then steer to point the car in the right direction.
If drivers can’t regain control of the car within two or three seconds, it’s time to depress the brake lightly, which will help to transfer power to the front of the car: if they brake too suddenly, though, the wheels could lock up, which will probably make the skid even worse.
All fleet drivers can benefit from some winter driver training will only take up a few hours and doesn’t cost much. A relatively small price to pay for safer, better-prepared drivers.