Winter weather can have a significant impact on your business operations. You not only have to think about accidents and injuries, but also critical downtime. Every year, it’s estimated that trucking companies lose more than 32 billion vehicle hours and $3 billion in revenue due to weather delays. For any business that needs to be on the road during inclement weather, good vehicle performance is key.
As this season’s weather intensifies, now is a good time to prepare your fleet’s tires for the cold, ice and snow. When it comes to winter weather and tires, it’s important to think about local conditions, your choice of tire, winter maintenance regimes, and guidance for your drivers.
Why Local Conditions Matter
The combination of winter weather and tires chosen for your fleet can impact your ability to operate during hazardous conditions as well as the safety of your vehicles and drivers. Choosing and maintaining tires suited for local winter conditions can also help reduce the risk of weather-related insurance claims.
Many fleets opt to replace summer or all-weather tires in the fall with winter tires. But the benefits can depend on local conditions. Consider:
- Snowfall averages in your area year to year
- Winter temperature ranges for your region
- Meteorological predictions for a harsh or mild winter season
- Conditions at the time of day your fleet operates, such as overnight
- Frequent travel on tertiary back roads that aren’t plowed right away
- Access needs for private roads or gravel lanes not cleared by municipal plows
- Need for daily driving regardless of road or weather conditions
Fleets that will be driving in difficult conditions on urban core roads or private unmaintained roads and driving overnight when temperatures drop should consider tires made for tough winter driving conditions.
When to Choose New Tires
All tires experience treadwear, aging and damage that can degrade performance, especially during snowy or wintery conditions. Tires made for summer or all-season travel are not suitable for severe winter weather. Winter-purpose tires may feature better cold-weather elasticity, better treads and reduced stopping distance capabilities.
Being proactive about tire selection before the worst weather hits can help you ensure your fleet is read for winter. If your fleet will face difficult winter weather, changing tires in the late fall may be a good option. Your fleet will start the winter season with a full tread depth that improves traction and handling, helping you get the most out of your tires and avoid costly downtime, road accidents and injuries.
Make sure to equip your fleet when tire inventory is made available. Buying too early or too late in the season may leave you waiting for restock. Look for good tires with siping tread slits that are made for winter use on snow, ice and cold surfaces. Consider performance needs and your local conditions in your decision.
How to Maintain Tires in Winter
No matter your choice of all-weather or winter tires, your fleet vehicle’s tires will need special care during the winter months to perform at their best and ensure safety.
- Check tire inflation frequently, at least once before each shift.
- Avoid underinflated or overinflated tires in inclement weather.
- Monitor and maintain vehicle alignment and balancing.
- Wash fleet vehicles and equipment regularly with warm water.
- Remove salt, dirt, ice and snow that can get caught in wheels, rims and hubs.
- Be on the look out for vibration and handling problems caused by road debris.
Proper maintenance is important for every type of fleet driving. Handling and stopping abilities can be just as important in parking lots as out on the road. Low-speed accidents can also lead to claims and downtime for repairs.
What Guidance to Give Fleet Drivers
Conditions can be hazardous for fleet drivers during inclement winter weather, so it’s important to prepare your drivers with proper guidance and education.
- Be prepared with winter essentials. Drivers should carry an ice scraper, snow shovel, road salt, jumper cables, flashlights, high-visibility clothing, food, water, blanket and other emergency supplies.
- Perform a pre-shift inspection. Check tires for wear, pressure and balance. Check battery power, lights and fluid levels. Clear snow and ice from wiper blades, windows, mirrors and exhaust.
- Check current road conditions. Drivers should be made aware of up-to-date conditions for their route and any forecasts of possible inclement weather during the shift.
- Drive for winter conditions. Make sure drivers slow down and increase following distance in bad weather. Heavy vehicles may need significantly more space to stop in bad weather.
- Ensure training emphasizes smooth steady operation, avoiding hard braking, acceleration or steering. Loss of control can otherwise result.
- Watch out for common winter hazards. Heavy rain, fog, black ice and bridge icing are common hazards that can lead to an accident.
- Know when to stop. Conditions may become so treacherous that driving becomes impossible and unsafe. Make sure procedures are in place for such circumstances.
- Take care entering and exiting the vehicle. Steps can get icy, visibility can be poor and terrain can be hazardous. Drivers should take extra care to avoid injury.
When it comes to winter weather and tires, it’s important to be prepared. Make sure you evaluate the conditions your fleet is likely to face. Ensure your vehicles are equipped with appropriate tires. Monitor and maintain vehicles and tires during the winter months. And ensure your drivers have the training and guidance they need.
Preparation will help your business minimize downtime and avoid claims for weather-related accidents and injuries.