HGVs keep on rolling in winter. Managing powerful machines in harsh weather can be a challenge even for experienced HGV drivers. Fortunately, it’s a challenge that can be overcome. With that in mind, here is a quick guide to what new HGV drivers should know about driving in winter.
Keep doing your research
Even if you’re driving a route you know well, do your research before each trip. This is good practice all year round and vital in winter. Firstly, there’s a higher chance of issues with the roads. They may be officially closed or they may just be effectively unusable, at least for HGVs. Secondly, the weather is very local so you need to know exactly what conditions are likely to apply where.
If you have to drive a new vehicle, make sure you know its exact dimensions and technical specifications. Make sure you choose routes that give you plenty of headroom and width. Remember, bridges and roads may become narrower due to debris such as fallen branches (or even fallen trees).
Always be prepared
Hopefully, you’re already carrying basic supplies for yourself and your HGV. If you haven’t yet added high-visibility clothing and plenty of lights, do so quickly. Add in extra clothes, warm ones, plus a blanket and/or a sleeping bag. Make sure that you have plenty of food with you. It’s even better if you can heat it up. Also, think about bringing a flask of hot water for drinks.
Do frequent vehicle checks
If you’re new to HGV driving, you might find yourself very surprised by just how much cold weather can affect HGVs. It’s a case of lots of little things adding up. For example, winter is the time you’ll probably make the most use of your windscreen wipers and washers. This means that your washer fluid will be used up more quickly.
Similarly, your antifreeze and engine oil will also need to be topped up at shorter intervals. Your tyres will need air put in them more often and your lights and windows will need more frequent cleaning. You should also check your exhaust pipe regularly. It’s rare for them to become blocked by snow or debris but it can happen and when it does it’s highly dangerous.
Keep an eye on your fuel. You never want to go below half a tank. There are three reasons for this. Firstly, your HGV is going to be using more fuel as it has to handle the elements as well as its load. Secondly, the weight of the fuel can help to improve your traction. Thirdly, if there are any delays (e.g. traffic or a breakdown), you may need your fuel for heat.
Take it slowly and carefully
HGVs aren’t exactly built for manoeuvrability. Add in the effects of the weather and the time needed to do anything can go up significantly. The keys to dealing with this are to go slowly and to stay focused. You need to keep on the lookout (and listen out) for obstacles coming your way so you give yourself the most possible time to decide on a course of action and implement it.
Use your rest breaks effectively
Just as harsh weather takes its toll on your vehicle, it also takes its toll on your body. You’ll probably need more food and want more hot drinks. You’ll almost certainly want more “shut-eye”. This doesn’t have to mean a long period of sleep (although getting proper sleep is important”. It can also mean brief “power naps”.
With that said, it’s still important to get out of your cab and get yourself moving as much as you can. This stimulates blood flow and eases tension from your muscles. If you exercise outdoors it also lets you get genuinely fresh air into your lungs.
Andrea Easton is the Head of Finance and Operations of Walker Movements, who are specialists in quality second-hand, used trucks and trailers and are global leaders in the trucking industry.
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