We know, we know.
There's nothing more frustrating than hearing the C word at this time of year.
You might still feel warm and fuzzy from the summer (especially with the recent heat wave), but now is the right time to look ahead to the festive season.
Preparing your fleet for Christmas isn't just about getting ready for the influx of passengers looking to escape to a Christmas Market (if you can't stretch to the incredible European markets, the UK has some exceptional markets in Birmingham and Edinburgh). It's also about taking proactive steps to ensure your fleet is in tip-top condition for changing weather conditions.
December is always a popular month for bus and coach companies. Passengers love to explore new cities, seeing the Christmas lights and taking the time to visit loved ones in other areas. This year, with the introduction of the ULEZ in London, we can anticipate we'll see much more demand for bus or coach travel to the capital – not just because of the sustainability and environmental factors, but because the costs could be prohibitive to drive if your car isn't exempt.
As transport logistics consultants, we use September as a prep month. The summer rush may have died down, so now's the perfect time to double-check the condition of your vehicles, check your drivers have undertaken any required training, and put in place contingency plans for whatever the winter may bring.
Here are a few of our practical tips to help you get ready.
Undertake proactive maintenance during quiet times
If you've got a few weeks of quiet time, now is the perfect time to look carefully at your vehicles. You should already be on top of your general maintenance, but giving each bus or coach a thorough once-over should help you spot any wear and tear that needs to be dealt with or identify potential problems.
Take the time to schedule your mechanics to ensure your brakes are working properly, your wipers are effective, and all seatbelts offer passenger protection. It's also the time to check the upholstery and interiors – appearances are everything when it comes to passenger transport. If one of the vehicles looks tired, now is the time to make improvements before heading back out on the road.
It's also important to consider your drivers – what is their uniform like? Do they have the proper clothing to get through the winter? Now is the right time to order branded fleeces or bodywarmers to keep your drivers cosy in the cab. Similarly, use your downtime to check each vehicle is kitted out with high-vis jackets. If any show signs of wear and tear, now is the time to order your replacements.
Double-check you have winter tyres and snow chains ready
As we approach Christmas, one of the things we can almost guarantee is that the interchangeable weather will drop dramatically – even just for a few days.
A cold snap could lead to challenging driving conditions, from icy roads to overly wet conditions or even snow.
Before we get to the bad weather, now is the time to check you've got the right tyres on your fleet of vehicles. Winter tyres offer more support and better traction on the roads.
If you regularly drive across the EU, ensure you have suitable snow chains in place in your vehicles and drivers know how to put them on with minimal fuss. Failure to use chains properly could lead to hefty fines, which are easily avoidable with a bit of planning and practice.
At CJC Transport, we offer refresher training so drivers know what to do when driving in tricky weather conditions. We can also check upcoming driving schedules and make sure everyone is aware of local laws and legislation – this could be essential if you are driving outside of the UK.
Do you have your antifreeze ordered?
Preparing for winter means checking you've ordered the correct antifreeze. The last thing you want is for your engines to suffer, so checking coolant levels now (and cross-referencing your drivers know what to look for) is essential.
No one wants to waste stock, so if you've already got antifreeze left over from last year, make sure you've double-checked stock levels. You don't want to assume there’s enough only to be caught short. Similarly, you want to ensure you're using the older stock before opening any new bottles.
We always advise you to use this time to double-check employees are continuously following safety protocols. As antifreeze is a toxic substance, you need to have procedures in place that outline how coolant should be stored and how it should be accessed. To prevent leakages, you should have coolant stored in metal or plastic barrels and invest in protective PPE for anyone working directly with the substance.
Please talk to us if you want advice on safety protocols.
Are your Webasto heater systems working correctly?
In a perfect world, you should maintain a constant temperature inside the coach and the cab. Therefore, now is the ideal time to perform a thorough service on your air conditioning units and ensure your Webasto heater systems operate as intended. They will have put in a lot of effort over the summer, but they will be crucial to de-misting and de-icing your windscreens in the coming months.
Add a little longer to your usual routines
We are aware of how crucial punctuality is for your business. However, shifting weather patterns might cause a few unforeseen delays, which you should consider when making your schedule.
For instance, you might need to set aside some time in the morning for your drivers to de-mist or de-ice their windscreens. At the end of the journey, if your bus or coach has been covered in mud or salt, you may need to allow additional cleaning time.
We always recommend that during the winter months, you should add additional timeframes to your planning schedules. That way, you can prevent delays or minimise any overtime issues.
Don't forget your contingency for your yard duties
Preparing for Christmas isn't just about updating your vehicles and training your drivers.
Now is the time to think carefully about your yard management and implement contingencies to keep you running smoothly as the nights draw in.
For example, would you be prepared for icy conditions in the morning? Do staff know where to access grit to eliminate icy spots? If so, how are your supplies looking? The last thing you want is to order grit in an emergency – preplanning will help minimise costs and support your wider health and safety practices.
Your wash areas are another area to think about. How likely is it that any standing water could freeze? As part of your risk assessments, you must consider how safe it is for your staff to wash your vehicles in icy conditions. You want to check staff are safe and hoses are not at risk of splitting.
These might seem like minor points, but when they are all added together, they could cause significant disruption for your business.
Providing external support in the run-up to Christmas
Hopefully, this article will inspire you to consider how you can enhance your logistical operations leading up to the festive season.
With our support, we can work with you to identify what improvements could be put into action now. Not only will this speed up time and efficiencies, but reviewing your systems and processes could save you money and limit the potential for issues to arise.
For more information about how we can help you, please contact us.