‘Winterizing’ Your Drivers’ Driving Habits
By David Kolman
Roadways will be even more
congested during this Holiday season, crowded with even more preoccupied
drivers. Add inclement weather to this mix and
you get ever-more stressful driving conditions and a greater likelihood for
By this time, fleets have typically prepared their
vehicles for winter operation. Many fleets, however, overlook
“winterizing” their drivers’ driving habits. Driving on
ice and snow requires different techniques than driving on dry roads. Here
are some suggestions to help you prepare your drivers for the challenges
that come with delivering beverages during this hectic time of year.
Attitude adjustment — Drivers can expect increased traffic with more inattentive drivers so they will need extra patience. Because of
these traffic conditions, a cell phone should only be used for emergencies,
not while driving, even if the phone has a hands-free device. Additional
time to reach delivery locations should be factored in and routes
reconsidered to plan trips upon which fewer delays would be expected.
Defensive driving —
Defensive driving becomes even more important
because the holidays always bring out more distracted drivers, and sadly,
intoxicated drivers. There is also the need to be more observant as
visibility is often limited by weather
Aggression management — Being extra courteous can help avoid “road rage” from
other drivers. Remind drivers to always use turn signals and emergency
flashers, and not to tailgate. If your driver does something to anger
another driver, advise them to simply wave an apology and not engage in
inappropriate finger and hand gestures or get into an argument. A minor
annoyance can easily and rapidly escalate into an unpleasant confrontation
that can dampen one’s good mood, or
worse, become dangerous.
Pre-trip inspection — Heavy traffic and colder weather places greater stress and strain
on vehicles. Drivers should thoroughly inspect their vehicles before
starting each trip, looking for defects or problems.
Conditions check —
It is always beneficial to check current road conditions and the weather
forecast before your trucks leave on their appointed rounds. You can have
this information available for them. There are a number of real-time
traffic and weather reports available on the Internet and through phone services.
Driving conditions —
Vehicle speed and following distance need to be adjusted to the existing
conditions. The worse the conditions, the slower the speed and the greater
the following distance. Remind drivers that any sudden change in steering,
braking or acceleration on slippery surfaces can cause tires to lose their
grip on the roadway, resulting in a loss of vehicle control. Driving
maneuvers should be done purposefully and gradually when driving on ice and
snow covered roads. And drivers should be cautioned to be aware of
dangerous conditions such as:
Bridge decks typically freeze before the road surface.
Shaded areas on the road often do not thaw as quickly as those
exposed to sunlight.
Hard to see patches of ice (black ice).
Areas of the road that are covered with leaves are usually slippery.
Bright sunlight reflecting off snow-covered
ground can pro- duce “blinding” conditions. (Wearing sunglasses
helps pro- tect the eyes and prevent exces- sive eye fatigue.)
Falling snow can have a hypnotic effect.
Unexpected emergencies — Trucks should be equipped with a first aid kit, ice scraper/snow
brush, flashlight, folding shovel (to free the truck if it’s
“snowed in”), bag of sand or some burlap (for traction if the
wheels become mired in snow) and a warm blanket (for warmth should the
engine quit), among other things. It is also a good idea for drivers to
take along some water and food.
Clean vehicles — Drivers
should make the effort to clean their vehicles completely of snow and ice.
This will help avoid sheets of ice and snow flying off and hitting nearby
vehicles. The windshield, windows and mirrors should be kept clear of snow
Washer fluid — On a
really snowy or messy day, a driver can easily go through a vehicle’s
reservoir of windshield washer fluid. The fluid should be checked on a
daily basis. Keeping an extra bottle or two of the fluid on a vehicle never
Overindulging — Drinking
or eating too much can make a driver feel tired. And be advised, turkey
contains a natural sedative.
A final thought. Reward your drivers for desired behaviors.
Behavior that is reinforced usually will continue. If you want to increase driver
safety and performance, it’s important to recognize and reward these kinds
David Kolman is a veteran truck communicator, keynote
speaker and long-haul trucker. Commissioned as an Honorary Colonel on the Kentucky
governor’s staff for his work promoting traffic safety, he actively participates
in trade associations, and reports news and information about the trucking industry
for broadcasting and print media.