Businesses with a fleet of vehicles face a variety of challenges during the winter months. With fewer hours of daylight and more hazardous road conditions caused by rain, sleet, snow or ice, safe driving practices and proper vehicle maintenance can go a long way toward controlling costs and increasing efficiencies for drivers and their vehicles. The advantages range from reducing the chances of vehicle collisions, personal injuries, workers’ compensation claims and downtime to avoiding expensive repairs caused by excessive wear and tear on a vehicle. In addition to having a good driver training program that includes a written fleet safety policy, it’s important to make sure drivers are familiar with some of the newer emergency icons that may light up on the dashboard to signal problems that need to be addressed.
- Traction Control, also called acceleration slip regulation (ASR), is designed to ensure maximum contact between the road surface and the vehicle’s tires when accelerating from a complete stop or speeding up to pass another vehicle, particularly under less than ideal road conditions.
- Stability Control utilizes speed sensors on each wheel, as well as steering-angle sensors and a hydraulic modulator control, to increase traction during potential side-skidding situations.
- Antilock Braking System (ABS) senses and prevents wheel lock-up to improve traction and steering during hard braking. Greater vehicle stability in an emergency can make a significant difference in avoiding obstacles.
- Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) uses pressure-sensing transmitters mounted inside each tire to monitor an unsafe change of 25 percent or more in the air pressure in one or more of a vehicle’s tires.
It is never a good idea to skip or postpone routine maintenance, and it is even more essential to be vigilant about maintenance in the winter. Inspect wiper blades, windshield washers and washer fluid levels. Seal any windshield cracks, which tend to spread in the winter. Also check each vehicle’s battery for load capacity and the electrical/charging system, as well as all belts and hoses for softness and wear.
Match dimensions indicated on the tire information decal for new tires to help prevent inaccurate speedometer/odometer readings, ABS brake malfunctions, and multiple engine and transmission errors. Some vehicles with all-wheel drive require replacement of all tires at the same time because of potential driveline problems.
Use a quality air pressure gauge to check pressure at least once a week. Correct tire pressure helps extend tire tread life and gas mileage, as well as contributes to good traction and handling. Rotation of the tires, recommended every 10,000 miles, will extend the tire life further (especially for front wheel drive vehicles).
Seasonal blends of gasoline will ensure better performance in the winter. Always consult the owner’s manual for recommendations regarding grade or octane of fuel. Gasoline that is too low in octane can drastically affect vehicle performance, and higher octane gas can drive up expenses unnecessarily.
Last but not least, check the vehicle’s emergency roadside kit to make sure it is winter ready. Items may include a cell phone charger or extra battery, first-aid kit, extra winter clothing, a flashlight, tire gauge, fire extinguisher and snow shovel. Even with roadside assistance, being prepared can increase safety, reduce stress and make waiting for assistance more comfortable.