With cooler weather on the way, and the prospect of dark mornings and gloomy evenings ahead, it’s safe to say that winter is coming. Icy roads, heavy downpours and sub-zero temperatures can play havoc with the traffic, and for business owners it’s a constant battle to keep one step ahead. But for fleet owners, the battle is magnified across however many vehicles you have – making it that much more difficult to stay on top.
But there are things you can do to help keep things running smoothly, even when the weather’s got it in for you. Check out our top tips for protecting your van fleet this winter – and be prepared for what lies ahead.
Top Tip #1: Maintain servicing
The most important thing when it comes to ensuring your fleet is ready for winter is to make sure every vehicle is up to date with both its MOT (including suggested repairs) and servicing. These two combined will give each vehicle the best chance at staying in top condition even in the worst weather. Don’t be tempted to put off any repairs that the MOT highlights – they might not constitute a fail on that day, but they might when it’s -5°C and blowing a gale.
Even better is to also invest in a winter health check. Many garages now offer this service, often for a flat rate, or can offer lower prices for fleet vehicles. This will look at the key areas of concern over the winter months, such as fluid levels, brakes, lights and tyres.
If there are any cracks or chips in any windscreens, autumn is the time to repair. Cold weather and rain can combine to turn a small crack into a big one, requiring a full windscreen replacement. Avoid the risk and get a company like Autoglass to come out to you for any minor repairs.
Top Tip #2: Stay well provisioned
When driving in poor weather, it’s always a good idea to be prepared for any eventuality. Make sure all your fleet vehicles are well stocked with a first aid kit, torch, de-icer and scraper, a shovel and battery jump leads. If drivers are doing long journeys, especially overnight, a blanket and some energy bars or cereal bars – along with a bottle of water – wouldn’t go amiss either.
Top Tip #3: Watch your tyres
The tyres of any vehicle are the things that keep it connected to the road – lose that connection and everything goes wrong. Make sure your van tyres have a sufficient tread depth – 1.6mm is the minimum legal requirement – and are correctly inflated. Tyres lose pressure quicker in cooler temperatures, so they may need to be topped up more often than normal.
If possible, time it so that you replace tyres in autumn, so that come winter they still have maximum tread, and therefore maximum grip. If you can’t afford to replace all the tyres at the same time, focus on those that steer the vehicle.
Top Tip #4: Get cover
The right insurance cover can make all the difference, if the worst does happen. Make sure every van has business cover that not only protects the driver and the vehicle, but also any tools, equipment or goods that may be in the van.
Opt for cover that offers a courtesy van, so that if one vehicle is taken off the roads for repairs, you can still make use of that driver to maintain customer service.
Many insurers now offer bespoke fleet van insurance, designed to offer you suitable protection for your entire multi van business needs plus taking into account, your precise driving circumstances and operational area. Websites like comparevaninsurance.com have more information about multiple van insurance and can provide suitable insurance if required.
You should also ensure you either choose to include roadside assistance in your insurance package, or pay for breakdown cover through a reputable firm such as Green Flag, RAC or the AA.
Top Tip #5: Train up the drivers
There are plenty of advanced driving courses available that will teach you how to control a vehicle in bad weather conditions as part of the package. They’re not always cheap, so depending on the size of your fleet you might not offer it to everyone, but it’s certainly worth investing in for younger drivers or those who are new to the courier or haulage industry.
Top Tip #6: Top up regularly
By this we mean, keep your fuel tanks half full or fuller. When the level of fuel in a tank drops and cold weather sets in, condensation can form inside the tank and then freeze, potentially blocking the fuel line.
Top Tip #7: Driver responsibility
While it’s all well and good telling you what you, as the fleet owner, need to do, your drivers have a responsibility as well. They should always check over their vehicle before driving it, including brakes, lights and tyres. If they should be stopped by the police for an offence in which the van is deemed not to be road legal, it will be the driver who receives the points on their licence – though if they can demonstrate that the defect was as a result of poor maintenance on the part of the company, you may be liable to pay any ensuing fines.
We hope these tips help you to organise your fleet in preparation for the winter months, so that no matter what each day brings, you know you and your vehicles are ready.