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Your winter fleet checklist

By Verizon Connect September 22, 2023

Just as you’re getting out your winter jackets and boots and starting to think about the holidays, it’s the perfect time to prepare your fleet for what’s in store during the coldest months of the year. Dark nights and inclement weather make for more treacherous roads, while lower temperatures can impede peak fuel efficiency and cause extra maintenance issues for your vehicles. 

Here are just a few reasons the winter months can be particularly hard on fleet-based businesses:1

  • Over 70% of the roads in the United States are in regions that receive more than five inches of snow each year. 
  • Nearly 70% of the U.S. population lives in those regions.  
  • Average driving speeds decline by up to 40% on snowy or slushy roads. 
  • 24% of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy or icy pavement. 
  • Over 1,300 people are killed and more than 116,800 people are injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy or icy pavement each year.

While winter weather can hinder productivity and increase risks on the road and on the job, being proactive is a fleet’s best defense.

Stay ahead of vehicle maintenance all year round

Monitoring the health of your vehicles is critical at all times and is especially key during the winter months. Make sure to keep an eye on any active diagnostic trouble-code (DTC) alerts, including engine functions like:

  • Battery voltage
  • Coolant temperature
  • Powertrain malfunctions
  • Intake-valve issues
  • Oxygen-sensor problems 

This data can help get vehicles into service before a major repair is needed or a breakdown occurs—which can be a very dangerous situation during the winter. 

It’s important to find the right preventative maintenance schedule that works for your fleet. Miles traveled, engine hours, fuel usage and calendar time are the typical guides. If you also track the number of breakdowns, jumpstarts, tows and emergency repairs, you might see patterns that require adjustments to your maintenance schedule. For fleets with a lot of vehicles operating over a wide area, tracking service records using fleet management software can provide more effective control and efficiency.

If you’re still entering and tracking data manually, consider upgrading to a GPS fleet tracking system.

Help keep your drivers safe in winter conditions

Telematics also allows you to examine your drivers’ winter driving performance, so you can offer important feedback and coach safe driving habits.

Remind fleet drivers to exercise more caution while traveling in winter conditions, reduce their speed and not follow cars too closely. Quick acceleration and harsh cornering can also cause issues in winter conditions. Should a driver encounter black ice or slippery snowy roads, and their vehicle starts sliding, they must remember to turn into the skid. They should additionally proceed with extra caution in winding mountain terrains and over bridges which tend to freeze first.

Reducing distracted driving is a critical part of keeping drivers and others on the road safe while also protecting your company's reputation and bottom line. Talking about these safety topics helps them become an integral part of company culture and helps reinforce the importance of eliminating distracted driving behaviors. 

In-cab video integrated into your telematics solution is especially useful for a holistic picture of driving events. With optional dual view of the driver and the road, this video evidence can be used in the event of a serious driver infraction, aid in accident investigations and determine liability.

Build your fleet’s winter checklist

A handy winter checklist for your managers and drivers can go a long way to prioritizing winter safety. This can be kept in the glove compartment and referred to whenever temperatures drop.

Your checklist should include instructions on how to:

  1. Check headlights and wiper blades before every journey: Make sure to also clean excess snow and ice from vehicle exterior before setting off.
  2. Check all fluids and top up if necessary: Remind drivers to check everything from oil to coolant before setting off.
  3. Think outside the box when it comes to antifreeze: In addition to checking antifreeze levels, you should also make sure every vehicle is equipped with deicer and a windscreen scraper to aid visibility and avoid any delays before setting off. A quick spray of WD-40 into vehicle locks can help prevent them from freezing, while a layer of petroleum jelly can be used to thaw any ice that has made its way inside the mechanism.
  4. Pack an emergency kit: Instruct your drivers to pack an emergency kit in case they run into trouble when out on the road. Kits should include everything they’ll need to stay safe, warm and comfortable until assistance arrives. So, stock up on blankets, flashlights, tow straps, food supplies and handy extras like hand warmers.
  5. Check batteries: Cold weather can reduce battery performance, so make sure drivers keep an eye on charge levels and check the cables and terminals for signs of additional wear and tear.
  6. Check tire pressure and tread depth: As the only part of your vehicles in contact with the road, it’s vital that they remain in tip-top condition—particularly in wet and icy conditions. For extra peace of mind, consider investing in winter tires when the temperatures drop. Thanks to a thicker compound and specialist tread pattern, winter tires increase grip and improve braking performance in snow and ice.

Your winter checklist should also include instructions detailing what to do in the event of a breakdown as well as a list of emergency contacts.

Don’t let your fleet get caught out in the cold this winter

With a little extra preparation, you can help keep your drivers safe, warm and moving this winter. A fleet management solution can help keep your vehicles in peak condition and prioritize your drivers’ safety.

For more information, download our free ebook 4 Ways Telematics Can Improve Fleet Maintenance, or schedule a demo today.

1 https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/weather/weather_events/snow_ice.htm

Verizon Connect

Verizon Connect Staff represents a team of professionals passionate about everything telematics. Get to hear about the latest trends, product features and industry best practices from the desk of Verizon Connect Staff.

Tags: Data & Analytics, Performance & Coaching, Safety, Team Management

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