The time to prepare your fleet for winter driving is before winter arrives. By creating a checklist that covers all the things you need to do to get ready for cold weather, fleet managers can reduce the risk that winter weather takes their vehicles off the road.
Any plan to prepare your fleet for winter driving should include areas such as best practices for drivers, performing proactive maintenance and working with your telematics provider to ensure all connected devices perform properly during the cold winter months.
A Checklist for Winter Fleet Operations
The following looks at areas that you should cover when getting your fleet ready for winter weather. It’s particularly important for fleets with operations in the upper United States and Canada. Given the volatility of winter weather in recent years, preparation for winter weather is more important than ever.
Inspect Vehicles and Equipment
The first step is to ensure vehicles are operating at an optimum level before the weather changes. This is especially important if equipment needs to be installed, such as hydraulics or blades. Winter weather also is tough on components such as belts, hoses, and brake pads. Performing maintenance in these areas can save money down the road.
It’s also important to schedule regular inspections on all vehicles. As Boss magazine notes: “When cold weather is added to the mix, it’s important to increase the frequency of these inspections to ensure the low temperatures aren’t causing any undue stress or problems.”
Other maintenance areas should focus on include:
Tires. The cold can cause tires to deflate slowly, so it’s important to continually monitor them through the winter. Consider changing to lug tread tires for better handling and stability.
Batteries. The cold zaps battery strength. Test them before winter arrives and also clean the connections. Another smart move is to check for voltage drop between the alternator and battery to ensure all equipment is getting maximum power. Keep in mind that short days and cold temperatures will mean more use of cab heating systems and lights.
Drain water separator, replace filters. Water in the fuel system can turn to ice and damage pumps and injectors, creating situations where the engine will not start. It’s critical to regularly drain water separators and replace water-absorbing filters.
Check Oil and Lubricants
Check oil filters throughout the winter as engines that start in the cold push a surge through the system that may damage filters. Also, ensure that you use the right oil with lower cold temperature viscosity.
It’s important to review winter routes to achieve maximum efficiency and avoid areas where winter weather causes high risk for drivers. Also, fleet managers should review route data to ensure they are up to date with any changes for the winter.
Clean the Exterior
Corrosive salts on the road can lead to body damage on vehicles. The best protection involves cleaning the vehicles before winter starts and applying a new coat of wax. During the winter, fleets should have a regular schedule to wash the cab, body and undercarriage.
Working with their telematics provider, fleets should ensure that all hardware and software involved with their connected systems is working properly and updated to meet the latest standards. This involves checking all devices on every rolling asset, powered asset and non-powered asset.
By working with a telematics provider that offers after-sale support, companies can prepare their winter fleet operations knowing they will have accurate data and devices that work properly, even in the cold weather.
Checking that all in-cab heating systems work should be part of the proactive maintenance before winter arrives. Also, each vehicle should have an emergency kit that includes a solar blanket, water, road flares, fire extinguisher, reflective triangles, jumper cables and whatever other emergency supplies drivers need on the road. All items should get tested to ensure they work before winter arrives.
These tips can help prepare your fleet for winter driving. As with all things involving fleets, preparation and having the right equipment is key. This includes having the right telematics systems that provide the data you need to take the guesswork out of winter fleet operations.