As the nights draw in, there's little denying that the weather is turning and winter is well on the way. When temperatures drop, not only can road conditions worsen, but any fleet of vehicles can suffer mechanically if they're not optimised for the new, frostier period.
In New Zealand, there can of course be large discrepancies between the weather in the North and South Islands. However, here are a few checks that all fleet managers should be ready to carry out in preparation for winter, regardless of their locale:
Traction and braking
Roads that are slippery and icy can be incredibly hazardous to any driver, but risks are compounded in large vehicles. In fact, research from logistics company Transervice noted that the stopping distances of larger commercial vehicles can increase by anything from four to 10 times in length when the road surface is frozen.
Stopping distances of commercial vehicles can increase from four to 10 times in length when the road surface is frozen.
To that end, the brakes of any fleet vehicle should be checked regularly in the build up to, and throughout winter. This includes ensuring the brake discs are not warped, discoloured or worn beyond the acceptable levels of wear and tear, as well as keeping an eye on the brake pads and replacing them as and when required.
Furthermore, tyres are just as important when it comes to gaining traction on wintery roads. Treads and pressures need to be monitored and logged every few weeks, while – if viable – winter tyres should be fitted to the entire fleet.
Specialised seasonal rubber will have deeper and more effective tread patterns for the conditions, ultimately giving your drivers more grip out on the road. This video from tyre manufacturer Michelin highlights the differences between winter and all-season tyres, as well as some tips on the best braking practices in especially wintery conditions:
As important as traction and braking, your fleet vehicles engines should be tended to in preparation for colder conditions. Any worn spark plugs or belts within the motor should be switched out for new parts, as they are more likely to fail in excessively low temperatures.
Furthermore, fleet managers should encourage drivers to ensure that fuel levels are kept above the minimum. If they get close to empty, water vapour can collect in the tank and pose a bigger problem if it makes it through the system and into the engine.
Encouraging drivers to fill up using their business fuel cards will likely save the company money, but it could also inadvertently prolong the life of your fleet vehicles engines too.
As temperatures creep lower and lower, it's important to have the fleet – no matter what its size – ready for any changes. Winter shouldn't stop any group of vehicles from performing its tasks to the highest standards, providing companies prepare them for seasonal conditions in advance.