RISK MANAGEMENT: Winter weather driving safety
By Bill Smith07 January 2020
Snow, ice, wind and limited visibility. Winter weather brings a whole host of seasonal considerations that drivers and their employers need to consider. Driving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) for a living, whether it’s a truck or a crane, means additional challenges during the winter season.
Although your company cannot affect winter weather conditions, you can promote safe driving behaviors by making sure employees recognize the hazards of driving in inclement weather. One way to do this is to share with employees the following five CMV Driving Tips for operating vehicles in inclement weather. These tips are suggested by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA):
- Reduce your driving speed in adverse road and/or weather conditions – 25 percent of speeding-related CMV fatalities occurred during adverse weather conditions (US DOT Publication No. MCRT-00-004).
- Enter a curve slowly; curve warning signs are intended for passenger vehicles – 40 percent of speed-related fatalities occur on curves (DOT HS publication No. 809 839).
- Reduce your speed before entering an exit/entrance ramp – 20 to 30 percent of all large-truck crashes occur on or near ramps (Journal of Transportation and Statistics, 1, 75-92., p. 76).
- Drive slowly with a loaded trailer – fully loaded trailers are 10 times more likely to roll over than those with empty trailers (Pennsylvania Commercial Driver’s License Manual, p. 2-15, 6-1).
- Slow-down in work zones – nearly a quarter of all work-zone deaths in 2006 involved a large truck (U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. (2008), Ninth Annual National Work Zone Awareness Week 2008).
Crucial winter maintenance
Employers should also set and enforce driver safety policies and implement an effective winter maintenance program for all vehicles and mechanized equipment that drivers are required to operate in colder months. Many times, these programs involve winter-specific activities such as keeping gas tanks at least half full, ensuring motor oil is the right viscosity, and changing tires. Other vehicle systems that should be checked (but not limited to) include:
- Brakes: Brakes should provide even and balanced braking. Also check that brake fluid is at the proper level.
- Cooling System: Ensure a proper mixture of 50/50 antifreeze and water in the cooling system at the proper level.
- Electrical System: Check the ignition system and make sure that the battery is fully charged and that the connections are clean. Check that the alternator belt is in good condition with proper tension.
- Exhaust System: Check exhaust for leaks and that all clamps and hangers are snug.
- Tires: Check for proper tread depth and no signs of damage or uneven wear. Check for proper tire inflation.
- Oil: Check that oil is at the proper level and viscosity.
Visibility Systems: Inspect all exterior lights, defrosters (windshield and rear window), and wipers. Install winter windshield wipers.
As seasons change, so should the tasks you perform before hitting the road. Be sure to discuss with your employees’ techniques related to driving on snow and ice-covered roads; consider offering training for driving in winter weather conditions; and make extra certain operators are licensed (as applicable) for the vehicles they operate.