Expert insights from the Canadian Automobile Association
As the winter months approach, the importance of preparing your vehicle fleet and drivers for the challenging conditions cannot be overstated. To shed light on this crucial topic, we spoke with Kristine D'Arbelles, senior director of public affairs at the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA). With her expertise, we delve into the best practices for health and safety professionals managing large fleets of vehicles, ensuring both vehicles and drivers are ready to tackle winter head-on.
- Early Preparation is Key
According to D’Arbelles, "if you have a large fleet, you have to be thinking about this even earlier." While most Canadians may wait until they can see their breath in the chilly air before considering winter preparations, fleet managers should act proactively. For instance, D’Arbelles suggests thinking about changing to winter tires as early as October, as all-season tires lose elasticity below seven degrees Celsius. Waiting until the first snowfall can lead to delays and potential safety hazards.
- Battery Health Matters
D’Arbelles says "the battery is one of the first things that's going to go in the winter." Fleet companies should pay close attention to their vehicle batteries, especially since a failing battery can result in lost productivity and downtime for drivers. If a fleet's battery is between three and five years old, it's advisable to have it checked to avoid any cold-weather surprises.
- Don't Neglect Your Brakes
Brakes play a critical role in winter driving safety. D’Arbelles advises, "if your employees are mentioning that their brakes are squealing or grinding, it probably means that they should have their brakes at least inspected if not replaced." Well-maintained brakes are essential for shorter stopping distances, a crucial factor in snowy and icy conditions.
- Clear Vision with Windshield Maintenance
Besides tires, batteries, and brakes, don't overlook the importance of windshield wipers and windshield fluid. "Making sure that there's always an extra thing of windshield washer fluid in all of your fleet vehicles is a nice-to-have," says D’Arbelles. Additionally, changing windshield wipers at least once a year or with the change of seasons is essential for optimal visibility. Winter-grade wipers can make a significant difference in clearing snow and ice from your windshield effectively.
Preparing Fleet Vehicles
Beyond these valuable insights from D’Arbelles, let's explore how you can prepare your fleet vehicles comprehensively:
- Tire Maintenance: Start by switching to winter tires early, well before the snow starts to fall. Ensure they are in good condition and properly inflated.
- Battery Checks: Regularly inspect the batteries of your fleet vehicles, especially if they are between three and five years old. Ensure they are in good working order to prevent unexpected failures in cold weather.
- Brake Inspections: Stay on top of brake maintenance. Inspect them regularly according to the manufacturer's recommendations and replace them as needed to maintain safe stopping distances.
- Windshield Care: Keep an ample supply of windshield washer fluid in all vehicles, and replace windshield wipers at least once a year or as necessary, using winter-grade wipers for better performance.
Your drivers' behavior during winter plays a pivotal role in safety. Here are some tips for ensuring your drivers are well-prepared:
- Avoid Distractions: Remind your drivers not to engage in distracted driving. Winter conditions require full attention to the road.
- Obey Speed Limits: Emphasize the importance of following posted speed limits, even during adverse weather. These limits are designed for ideal conditions, so slowing down in winter is safer.
- Safe Driving Practices: Encourage safe driving practices, including maintaining a safe following distance, especially on slippery roads.
- Don't Rush: D’Arbelles suggests, "Don't rush to get to work." Giving your drivers the flexibility to arrive a few minutes late, rather than rushing with compromised visibility, is a wise choice.
Communication to Drivers After the Time Change
With the recent time change, it's important to consider its impact on your drivers:
- Time Change Adjustment: Some studies have shown a slight increase in collisions during this period, which coincides with the time change and changing weather. Keep in mind that adjusting to a new sleep schedule can take up to two weeks for some individuals. Drivers should be cautious and well-rested during this period.
- Rest and Breaks: Encourage your drivers to take frequent breaks, especially if they feel tired. Fatigue can impair driving abilities, and it's important to prioritize safety over rushing to a destination.
- Sleep Deprivation: Highlight the dangers of driving while overtired. Studies have compared overtired driving to impaired driving, emphasizing the need for well-rested drivers on the road.
Ensuring your fleet and drivers are well-prepared for winter is a proactive measure that promotes safety and efficiency. Early preparation, regular vehicle maintenance, and responsible driver behavior are key elements in keeping your operations running smoothly during the winter months.
Remember, it's not just about getting to your destination; it's about arriving safely. Take the necessary steps today to safeguard your fleet and protect your drivers throughout the winter season.