Winter driving is filled with hazards for drivers. Snow, ice, fog and slush can make navigating the roads difficult — which can lead to costly crashes.

According to a report by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), more than 5.8 million crashes happen each year — and 21% of those are weather-related. Snow and ice reduces roadway friction, vehicle maneuverability, and the amount of traffic congestion on the roads, which heightens the risk of crashes.

Annually, snow, slush, and ice on pavements account for 24% of all weather-related vehicle crashes. Another 15% are due to snowfall. The death toll hovers around 1,300 people, while more than 116,800 individuals sustain injuries because of vehicle crashes caused by snow, slush, and ice on pavements.

On the other hand, about 900 people die annually while almost 76,000 suffer injuries in vehicle crashes caused by snowfall or sleet. The reduced friction on the roads is particularly dangerous.

To avoid potential vehicle accidents, breakdowns and other road mishaps, it is important to prepare your drivers for the worst-case scenario. Here are 5 fleet safety tips to keep your drivers safe in the winter.

1. Review Previous Data

The first step to improving driver safety for the winter is identifying patterns in old data. This includes both driver and route data showing trends in driver behavior and performance as well as road accident frequency on specific routes. Data helps companies predict new outcomes based on past occurrences.

You can either analyze this data manually to search for specific issues encountered during past winters, or use complex data analytics software to find small trends and details — fleet management software included with systems like Driveri collects this kind of data. Either way, data allows you to make informed decisions on the best way to ensure safety for your drivers under the extreme weather conditions.

Driver Data

Driver data shows past driver performance in the winter and how safety managers can work to combat any issues that their drivers have faced. Taking a deep dive in the data will help you understand negative driver behavior trends including speeding, your drivers’ tendency to collide with other vehicles, and other common problems that affect the driver’s ability to navigate their route during the winter.

A great way to approach data analysis is with a list of questions or assumptions to validate. For example, try to answer these questions to answer for each driver:

  • Did this driver log any complaints during past winter operations? If yes, what led to these complaints and which of them were only logged during the winter?
  • Did the drivers experience more motor vehicle breakdowns in the winter?
  • Did driver performance decline on average during the winter?

These are just sample questions and data-related questions should be tailored specifically to your fleet for best results. After analyzing driver data, the next important step is to look for trends and issues in past route data.

Route Data

Looking at where your drivers travel helps your team effectively plan safer routes that only increase travel time by the bare minimum. Ideally, you should look for routes with a history of violent snowstorms, thick fog, sleet, and weather-related crashes so you can avoid them. Map out alternative routes using old weather data and weather forecasts.

2. Reinforce Common Winter Safety Habits With Drivers Through Training and Policy

Due to the safety hazards posed by winter driving, merely looking at past data is not enough. You must be proactive with training and fleet safety policy enforcement. An entire training program should be focused on navigating several scenarios such as thick fog, icy routes, and vehicle breakdown.

Emphasis should be placed on speeding, distracted driving, aggressive driving (and defensive driving), intoxication while driving, and safe following distances. You should also place emphasis on how to handle common events like skidding, making quick stops, taking corners, and encountering ice on the road.

You should create a culture of safety that reflects in your company policy and training material. Drivers should always be reminded of the potential consequences of speeding and distracted driving.

Each winter, drivers should be reminded of how to handle a breakdown, especially in extreme weather conditions as part of a larger program to promote safe driving.

3. Conduct Winter Safety Checks to Ensure that Vehicles are Prepared for the Winter Road Conditions

It is important to perform preventive maintenance procedures on your fleet vehicles as winter approaches so that you avoid breakdowns and other malfunctions. You should also ensure that all vehicle insurance policies are updated.

Although you may have a regular maintenance schedule, the cold winter temperatures call for more thorough inspection and preparation.

For additional transportation safety, you should provide your drivers with the following:

  • First aid kit
  • Bottled water
  • De-icer
  • Road flares
  • Jumper cables
  • Ice scraper
  • Torch and batteries
  • Screenwash
  • Shovel
  • De-mister
  • Flashlight

4. Leverage Technology

Technology is a potent tool for ensuring that your drivers and vehicles are safe during the extreme road conditions that the winter presents. For example, Driveri offers invaluable road data that helps drivers navigate roads better while giving the company an efficient way to monitor its fleet.

One way that Driveri ensures driver safety is by serving as an onboard coach to drivers as they encounter corners, bends, stop lights, and changing road conditions. This means that even as drivers weather tough conditions like thick fog, Driveri can chart the best course and help your driver make safe decisions.

The platform achieves this through the use of HD cameras, sensors and artificial intelligence. Driveri also has measures in place to detect distracted driving behaviors which could lead to crashes, in real-time.

Technology can help drivers to diagnose and troubleshoot vehicle faults before they become serious. It can also help with fuel economy.

5. Analyze Road Events and Data in Real-Time to Provide Feedback and Driver Coaching

It is important to monitor your drivers consistently during the winter, not just to assess driving performance, but also to find out how they are doing. Ask if they have any complaints or issues to report. Depending on the size of the fleet, this may be achieved more easily using a platform like Driveri which hosts its monitoring and communications systems on the same platform.

You should check in on your drivers as well as their routes and the conditions of those routes in real-time. Driveri also provides a rating system driven by real-time driver performance updates. You can use this as a way to allocate performance rewards and incentivize drivers to drive safely.

Final Thoughts

Winter can be a difficult season for commercial fleet drivers, which makes a safety manager’s job even more critical. This involves gathering data and reviewing past winter driving patterns and issues, tailoring training programs specifically for the winter, and performing comprehensive vehicle maintenance.

Technology can also improve the safety program you put in place. For example, drivers need assistance navigating the roads in thick fog. Driveri serves as a real-time onboard coach, helping drivers make the right decisions as they navigate tough road conditions. It also offers a way for you to monitor your drivers and their routes in real-time and integrate this with a rating and rewards platform.

Although your drivers’ journey is unpredictable and there is no way to 100% guarantee that they won’t have an incident on the road, taking the right measures for risk management gives them a better chance of avoiding crashes and staying safe.

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