AA calls on fleets to prepare drivers for wintry conditions

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The AA’s Business Services team is calling on fleets and business drivers to make sure they are fully equipped for safe and stress-free driving in winter weather.

The AA suggests that people get up at least ten minutes earlier to de-ice their vehicles and fully clear their windscreens, as well as consider whether a journey is necessary.

If a journey is necessary, the AA recommends drivers focus on five key areas: route planning; active driving; vehicle maintenance; vehicle load; and air resistance.
 
Stuart Thomas, director of fleet & SME services, the AA, comments: “As weather conditions become less favourable and more of our driving takes place in darker hours, it is important that fleet managers and business owners ensure their drivers are equipped for the changing conditions. The risk of accidents and breakdowns is higher in the winter months, so a few moments spent planning a journey upfront can make a real difference to getting drivers to their destination on time, safely and with minimal stress!”


 
1    Route planning
The shortest route is sometimes the most economical, but drivers should also consider factors such as traffic and idling time, regular breaks, access to fuel and business requirements. Best practice is to plan regular 15-minute breaks on long journeys (over three hours) and aim to stop every two hours or so but, most importantly, stop at the first sign of tiredness to prevent driver fatigue.

Drivers should charge up EVs or fill up fuel tanks before long journeys to mitigate the risk of breaking down on a Smart Motorway. In addition, drivers can check travel websites in advance and keep up to date on the move by listening out for traffic updates on the radio or using a sat nav or hands-free app.
 
2    Active driving
Driving smoothly and managing speed in line with road conditions and local limits can help improve safety and fuel consumption, which increases in colder weather. Conversely, braking and accelerating harshly will reduce the distance you travel on a tank of fuel and may be a contributing factor to accidents.

Drivers should practice active driving, keeping an eye out for clues to help anticipate the actions of other drivers and potential hazards. This allows better regulation of speed and ability to respond in case of any emergencies.
 
3    Vehicle maintenance
One of the best ways to ensure your vehicle is fuel-efficient and prepared for winter conditions is to keep your vehicle serviced in line with the manufacturer’s specification.
Drivers should check their tyres meet at least the minimum recommended tread depth of 1.6mm and are in good condition to ensure smooth driving. Confirming tyre pressures are correct improves safety, performance and fuel efficiency. The weather can also impact on tyre pressure; drivers should check tyres when there are any sharp rises or falls in temperature.
 
4    Vehicle load
Drivers should avoid carrying any unnecessary weight. The more items in the vehicle, the more strain being put on the vehicle and the more fuel it will use. Think about what items are necessary to carry for the journey and remove particularly heavy or bulky items.

It can seem like hassle to load and unload for each trip, but it could work out more fuel efficient and cost-effective in the long run. However, drivers should make sure to carry emergency essentials for poor weather events – shovel, torch, blankets, ice scraper, phone charger, food and water.
 
5    Air resistance
While air resistance is negligible at low speeds, it increases when the speed goes up and this influences fuel consumption. Obviously, drivers should pack their vehicles according to journey needs but, at high speed, it can help to keep windows closed. Removing roof racks, boxes and bike racks when not in use can minimise drag.