The winter season poses unique challenges to fleet and safety managers, which they can tackle by focusing on driver training, taking care of vehicles, and utilizing ELD data.
When the temperature drops, fleet managers know that their vehicle’s tire pressure, road traction, and gas mileage also do the same. Add poor visibility, increased braking distance, and reduced maneuverability into the mix, and you know you have a tough season ahead.
Staying productive, efficient, and safe in the winter season is a challenge every fleet manager has to tackle.
Here are six ways to prepare your fleet for the upcoming winter and stay productive and safe during the next few months.
1. Start with last year’s data
For established carriers, review last year’s data to spot driving behaviors or maintenance lapses that affected fuel efficiency and overall operation.
Many fleet management systems allow you to track inefficient and unsafe driving practices. These poor driving habits include hard braking, hard cornering, excessive acceleration, and unnecessary idling.
Dive into last year’s data and identify areas where you can improve this year. For example, you can identify drivers with the best and worst safety scores in the Motive Dashboard.
You can use this information to customize your driver training programs to be better prepared for the winter season.
Vehicle breakdowns is another aspect you need to cover while preparing your fleet for the winter season.
Investigate if your drivers or technicians performed fewer inspections and were overall less active throughout the season. They might have experienced seasonal depression, which may result in anxiety, irritability, and an increased need for sleep.
Seasonal depression may be one of the reasons why certain drivers and technicians feel less enthusiastic in their duties. A common treatment is ‘light therapy’, which involves exposure to a specialized lamp that triggers biochemical changes in the brain. These lamps generate 10,000 lux of fluorescent light to regulate melatonin and boost serotonin, respectively affecting sleepiness and happiness.
By using last year’s data, you can identify areas, including poor driving practices and vehicle maintenance issues, that you can improve this year.
2. Use the winter-prescribed engine oil
Manufacturers prescribe a certain type of motor oil for a specific model for year-round lubrication. But if you want to provide your engines with extra protection, go for a motor oil with a lower viscosity rating, denoted by the letter “W” for winter.
In terms of viscosity, the 5W-30 engine oil is thinner than the 10W-30 engine oil. This allows the 5W-30 oil to flow more smoothly and quickly than its thicker counterpart, especially when it’s cold.
3. Use winter blend diesel
The paraffin wax in regular diesel fuel causes the fuel to gel and clump in cold temperatures. If they get big enough, the clumps can clog a vehicle’s fuel filter, impede ignition, and diminish engine performance.
To avoid this, pay attention to a fuel product’s Cold Filter Plugging Point or CFPP upon purchase. This value pertains to the lowest possible temperature at which the fuel can still pass through standard filters.
Most gas stations offer “winter blend” fuels that can flow in cold weather without any trouble. You may also check with your vehicle manufacturer for fuel recommendations.
4. Inspect for ice in your fuel filter
Aside from wax, ice can also obstruct fuel filters and prevent engines from starting or operating normally. Drivers can check the fuel filter to determine whether the truck has gelling or ice buildup.
If the filter is coated with a thick substance, an emergency reliquefier can restore the runniness of the fuel. However, if they find ice in the fuel filter, they simply have to heat the filter to clear the blockage and get back on the road.
5. Check internal components
Aside from the fuel filter, you should also check the battery, engine belt, and hoses. A truck’s battery, in particular, is prone to failure under extreme weather conditions, be it in the summer or winter.
Engine belts and hoses also have a tendency to crack from the frigid temperatures. Other electrical and mechanical components, such as fans, windshield wipers, and air conditioners must also be checked as they have invaluable functions in the winter.
6. Focus on your drivers
ELDs with fleet management features go beyond simply tracking hours-of-service information.
The Motive fleet management solution allows fleets to monitor the performance and habits of drivers on the road. It automatically logs instances of excessive acceleration, hard braking, and hard cornering. Driver safety scores are calculated based on these critical safety events that the Motive ELD records.
You can identify drivers with the worst safety scores and customize their coaching programs to prepare them for the winter season. The Motive fleet management solution records individual critical safety events with time and place detail. You can use that information to identify and avoid high-risk roads.
Prepare and winter-proof your fleet
Winter can be a tough season for commercial drivers. However, by following the aforementioned tips and using powerful fleet management software like Motive, you can keep your fleet’s productivity high.