Driving in the latter months of the year has its unique challenges. From preparing to drive in heavy rain or windy conditions to adjusting your tyres and checking your antifreeze levels, there’s a lot to consider.
The challenge for fleet operators is to ensure a continuation of service and a seamless experience as the weather changes the road conditions. The last thing you want is to be caught out by preventable delays or not knowing how to communicate key changes to your customers.
As experienced transport consultants, we believe your ability to adapt to the changing weather depends on how well you prepare for every eventuality. If you have stringent contingency plans, you will be well-positioned to cope with whatever winter may bring.
With this in mind, here are our top eight tips to help you to manage your logistics operations effectively over the coming months.
Tip #1 - Now is the time to order your antifreeze
Your vehicles must have the right level of antifreeze in place to regulate your engines. Failure to do so could lead to serious engine issues, resulting in high maintenance costs.
As part of your antifreeze plans, we recommend you make sure your drivers know which type of coolant is needed for each vehicle and what dilation is required. In addition, different types of vehicles need different antifreeze options, so it’s essential to have a written plan to ensure you have the right antifreeze delivered in time.
It’s also important to consider how you plan to store your antifreeze. Coolant should be stored securely, in a metal or plastic barrel with contingency measures such as plastic tarps underneath, in case of a leak. Within your storage facility, you should consider investing in protective gear such as gloves, goggles, and facemasks for those working directly with the coolant.
Finally, think about how you plan to label new antifreeze containers so you can distinguish them from older containers that may have already been opened. This will help you effectively plan and prepare your budget and minimise waste.
Tip #2 – Consider your tyres
Will you be likely to need winter tyres this year? Switching your tyres could give your vehicles much more support and tread when driving in difficult conditions.
If you are considering making the switch, you should have plans to accommodate your vehicle being out of action.
No one wants to be caught out by cold weather, and snow can quickly transform road conditions from perfectly driveable to dangerous in just a few moments. If you are driving abroad, snow chains are taken extremely seriously in countries such as Andorra, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. Failure to use snow chains correctly could lead to heavy fines, so your drivers must know how to install the chains correctly.
It’s always worth spending a few moments providing refresher training to your drivers, so they know what to do when driving in tricky weather conditions.
Tip #3 – Check the temperature controls
We may have spent the last few months focusing heavily on our air conditioning capabilities, but before it gets too cold, now is the perfect time to check your cab and coach heaters. For optimum driving conditions, your driver and passengers should feel cosy and comfortable.
In an ideal scenario, you should seek to have a consistent temperature throughout the cab and the coach. Therefore, as well as checking your Webasto heater systems are working correctly, now is the time to conduct a thorough service of your air conditioning units. They have worked extremely hard over the summer, but they are integral to de-misting and de-icing your windscreens over the coming months.
Tip #4 – Appearances are important
As it gets colder, your drivers naturally need to wear more layers to keep warm. But multiple layers should still look professional.
Your drivers’ appearance is important – after all, they are the customer-facing aspect of your business. So, why not invest in branded hats, jumpers or coats offering functionality and practicality with professionalism?
As we head towards the darker months, you must check that you have the right high-visibility clothing available in your vehicles. If you’ve noticed any high-vis uniforms show signs of wear and tear, now is the perfect time to order replacements.
Tip #5 – dark conditions need additional preparation
Now the nights are drawing in, your maintenance routine should check all lights are working correctly. We recommend testing your lights on full beam and dipped mode, and you should also check your hazards and indicator lights are working correctly as well as any internal lights.
As part of your procurement, you should have a ready stock of replacement bulbs available for your drivers.
Dark nights are not just a concern for drivers; the conditions should also be factored in when your vehicles return to the yard. For example, have you invested in suitable spotlights for your workers to ensure their safety when working in darker conditions? Not only will appropriate lighting prevent accidents from occurring, but it will also help you spot any defects or issues on your vehicles during your cleaning processes.
Tip #6 – Changing weather conditions mean changing timescales
We know you need your vehicles to run on time. After all, customers have expectations that need to be met. But changing weather conditions could add a few unexpected delays you should factor into your scheduling plans.
For example, in the morning, you may need to allocate a few minutes for your drivers to de-mist or de-ice their windscreens. Similarly, at the end of the day, you may need to give time for additional cleaning – if your vehicle has been covered in salt or mud, you will need to tackle this. You can avoid delays or overtime issues by factoring these additional timescales into your planning schedules.
Tip #7 – Look at your yard habits
Your contingency plans for changing weather shouldn’t just focus on your vehicles and drivers. Your yard also needs careful attention.
For example, would you be prepared for icy conditions in the morning? Could you pre-empt any issues by gritting or salting your yard? If so, have you got enough grit or salt in storage that is easily accessible?
Another area to consider is your wash areas – how likely is it that any standing water could turn to ice? As part of your risk assessments, you need to look at how safe your staff are when washing your vehicles in icy conditions. You don’t want them to slip on the ice, and you also need to look at protecting your hoses. A frozen hose could cause issues for your cleaning and maintenance teams, as well causing costly repairs if they split.
Putting policies and protocols in place now could prevent any accidents caused by ice over the coming months.
Tip 8 – How will you cope in the snow?
Our final tip is to consider contingency planning for any heavy snow.
If your vehicles are due to travel in difficult driving conditions, do you have paperwork in place giving up-to-date contact information for your drivers, your staff, and your customers?
In any worst-case scenario, you should always have a contingency plan to contact customers in the event of any delays or cancellations. Your disaster plans should also factor in any external communications. For example, will you need to quickly brief your social media teams, or the press, about any changes to timetables?
It would help if you also looked at your internal operations. Have you set up remote working capabilities so your staff can quickly and easily work from home? Cloud-based computer software and VoIP phone systems can allow you to work anywhere in the world without disrupting your daily routines.
With pre-emptive planning, you can be ready to tackle the upcoming months with no issues.
CJC Transport can help you prepare for challenging weather conditions
We hope this list helps you think about how you can improve your logistics operations over the coming months. As transport consultants, we can help you with your preparation and contingency plans. Thanks to our independent advice, we can help you look at the little details that are often overlooked and create effective policies to keep your business running during challenging weather conditions.
To find out how we can help you, please get in touch