Driving in winter – HGV safety

With the dark nights and adverse weather conditions approaching, driving can become more and more challenging, especially for HGV drivers.

That’s why we’ve put together some top tips to help keep drivers safe on the road this winter.

Be prepared

  • Checking your fuel tank is topped up is essential. The extra weight will aid traction as you drive, and journeys may take longer than planned as you may need to find alternative routes when faced with adverse weather conditions.
  • The roads can be extremely dirty throughout the winter months. A combination of gritter salt and mud causes a nasty surface spray, which can seriously reduce visibility whilst driving. It’s therefore vital to keep your washer fluid topped up. Be sure to check this on a regular basis.
  • Before starting your journey, make sure you check your tyres to ensure they are inflated to the correct pressure and that they have a legal tread depth. Click here to view Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency guidance.
  • Make sure your wipers are working and that all your windows and mirrors are properly cleaned and clear before starting your journey.
  • Double check your lights are working and visible, especially now that the evenings are getting darker earlier.
  • Check your battery and electrical system are fully functioning. A weak battery or low system voltage can cause all kinds of havoc with the onboard electrics. Plus, a fully charged battery is essential for remaining warm in the unfortunate event that you break down.
  • With the weather taking a turn and getting significantly colder, be sure to make sure your defroster is working. If your defroster stops working at some stage during your journey, you can’t beat an old-school can of de-icer and a scraper.

Pack a winter breakdown kit

The chances of breakdowns or delays increase over winter, particularly when you’re driving all day. Packing some cab essentials will help to keep you safe and comfortable if you’re not able to complete your journey as planned.

  • If you break down, you’ll want to keep warm while you wait. Pack some warm clothes, a blanket, or a sleeping bag.
  • Pack plenty of food and drink. The prospect of being abandoned at the roadside for hours in poor weather conditions is a gloomy one – if you’re hungry and thirsty it can feel far worse.
  • Pack a flashlight for safety in case you get stuck in conditions with poor lighting.
  • It’s a good idea to make sure you have jump leads to hand too, just in case you or another HGV driver need a hand getting started.
  • It’s handy to have de-icer and a scraper with you, so you’re not stuck waiting for clearer weather if the lorry’s defroster fails.
  • Minor roads may not be gritted, in such scenarios, you could potentially get stuck. Some salt or sand for the road along with a shovel will be invaluable in assisting you to get moving again.

Be vigilant

  • Reduce your speed. This enables you to gain more traction on the road and allows you more time to react to any unexpected incidents or unpredictable drivers around you.
  • Stop! Sometimes the weather is too dangerous to carry on driving, regardless of your schedule.
  • In low or poor visibility, head to the nearest service station or lay-by and take a break.
  • Rest when you need to. As the winter months progress, drivers may find it harder to focus as a result of reduced sunlight and longer periods of driving in the dark. Know when to take a break and stick strictly to the regulations.

And finally…

Taking precautions and being well-prepared will help keep you safe this winter. However, don’t forget to use your own judgment. You’re the one behind the wheel.

If you don’t think it’s safe to continue driving, stop. Your safety and the safety of other road users is paramount.

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