An Atlantic freeze not lockdown set to catch-out fleet operators

Venson urges fleet managers to promote winter driving best practice as sub-zero temperatures loom

Fleet management expert, Venson Automotive Solutions, is calling upon fleet managers to introduce or promote Winter Motoring Policies for company car and van drivers, as forecasters predict an Atlantic sub-zero blast will hit the UK at the end of the month.

Simon Staton, Client Management Director at Venson Automotive Solutions explains, “This time last year, we were advising businesses operating fleets to prepare drivers and vehicles for a winter lockdown, with an emphasis on daily servicing of vehicles sat idle. However, harsh weather and treacherous road conditions are likely to catch motorists out this year, with breakdowns and accidents anticipated to be higher than average if predictions are right.”

Under the law, it is an employer’s duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of its employees and other people who might be affected by their business. Employers must do whatever is reasonably practicable to achieve this.

Typically, the policy governing driving in adverse conditions should fall under the remit of the company’s designated health and safety executive, depending on the size of the business, or failing that a fleet manager. Companies should ensure they have a dedicated member of the workforce to carry out a health and safety role or that it forms part of someone’s work responsibilities, which includes effectively controlling any risks to injury or health that could arise outside the workplace if it involves company vehicles.

All drivers should be provided with a drivers’ handbook outlining the name and contact details of their designated breakdown provider, as well as detailing all relevant emergency and out-of-hours phone numbers. For new vehicles still covered by the manufacturer, a breakdown policy needs to consider the manufacturer’s preferred breakdown and recovery provider.

Accident management is a must. If drivers are involved in an accident, they need to know exactly what to do and who to inform. All drivers should be encouraged to report an incident as soon as it is safe to do so, and the quality of information captured at this stage is essential to the speed and success of the overall vehicle repair and insurance claims process. The incident details that should be captured include circumstances, weather conditions, speed, third-party details, number of passengers or injuries, police involvement, stolen items, witnesses and indication of who is at fault.

In the event of an accident, drivers should have a dedicated driver hotline number to call – at any time of the day or night – and be put in touch with the designated accident management provider.

Continues Staton, “Having drivers off the road for an unnecessary length of time can cost both the business, in terms of lost productivity and manpower, and drivers through potential loss of earnings. However, whilst accidents are inevitable, by adhering to service schedules and carrying out basic vehicle checks, fleet managers can minimise the number of vehicles breaking down. Reminding drivers to conduct simple vehicle checks can also mitigate downtime and extend vehicle life.

“Prevention is always better than cure. Fleet managers who ensure both vehicles and drivers are prepared to face the winter ahead and are armed with a Winter Motoring Policy to guide them in the event of an accident or emergency, will help keep both drivers and others safe.”

Venson’s Winter Top Tips for Fleet Managers

  • Continue with service schedules and MOT bookings.
  • Provide drivers with a clear and easy-to-follow essential maintenance checklist to carry out each week, including tyre tread (minimum 3mm), wiper blade condition, headlights and glass, levels of oil, coolant, screen wash and de-icer.
  • Remind drivers to check their vehicle condition in daylight or a fully lit garage.
  • Keep essential telephone numbers – breakdown provider, fleet team number – not just in a phone but in the vehicle as a back-up.
  • Consider providing drivers with a safety kit to keep in their vehicle – high-visibility vest, a blanket, torch, first aid kit and phone charger.
  • Use the vehicle’s onboard tech to make journeys safe, smoother, and more comfortable. For example, Satnavs with traffic data and the latest map updates installed, remote engine start and apps that monitor vehicle health.
  • Winter driving throws all sorts of challenges at motorists, from wet, icy roads to dazzling sun and poor visibility, so helping drivers plan ahead can help avoid incidents.