For many independent sole traders such as delivery couriers, repair technicians, independent taxi drivers and those reliant upon their vehicles to keep them on the road during the inclement winter months, making sure that your van is roadworthy is crucial.
Breakdown giant GreenFlag has predicted they will attend almost 18 calls every minute over a freezing weekend in the UK. For fleet managers this is especially important in the runup to the festive period when delivery deadlines are tight, and UK’s highways are especially busy.
Making sure you have the correct fleet management insurance or van insurance, including breakdown and recovery, will help to keep you moving. If you want to prevent having to make a claim and losing precious hours of business, read Tradex’s guide to keeping your van on the road during the winter months.
Before You Set Off
- Remember to apportion plenty of time for all of your winter journeys. You might need to get up earlier than usual to de-ice your van.
- Check local and traffic updates and turn on either the Traffic Announcement/Traffic Protocol (TA/TP) buttons on your van radio to stay aware of traffic changes and road conditions throughout the day. Stick to major roads, which are most likely to be cleared.
- For fleet managers, remember to update your van schedules and delivery times so that you can track each vehicle’s progress throughout the day
- Check your fuel – you should have at least a quarter of a tank at all times in case of delays or traffic holdups.
- Clear all your van windows using a scraper and de-icer to make sure your screens back and front are totally clear before setting off.
- Clear snow from your van’s roof – it can drop onto the windscreen and restrict your view. Whilst it isn’t illegal to drive with snow on your roof, if it flies into the path of another car, you could be penalised for ‘driving without due consideration’ or ‘using a motor vehicle in a dangerous condition’, according to the RAC.
- Remember to charge your mobile phone and ensure you have enough credit.
- Antifreeze is cheap but can save you hundreds on repairing a frozen or cracked engine as it protects engines down to -34C. Most modern cars and vans use long-life antifreeze, but fleet managers should check their service schedule to see if any vans need a top up.
- Make sure you do a daily check before you set off.
- Don’t de-pressurise your tyres to get a greater grip – it does not work, and it can be unsafe.
- For the winter months you should have at least a 3mm tread.
- Only use snow chains in deep snow. They can cause damage to UK roads.
- Fleet managers would be wise to invest in winter tyres or all-season tyres. Winter tyres are constructed from special rubber that gives better grip in cold, snowy environs.
Normal car and van batteries don’t last longer than five years; and remember that in winter batteries have to take an extra load thanks to extra internal heating, fog and spot lamps and windscreen wipers.
Before you start your engine, you should first turn off all electrics such as lights, heating, heated rear window and wipers. If the engine doesn't start immediately, you should wait for about 30 seconds before trying again. For electric vehicles, make sure you have fully charged your vans overnight. Fleet managers should regularly test their power supply at docking stations.
Your Van on the Road
Make sure all your lights are working and that the lenses are clean and grease free; if the roads are very dirty you may have to clean your lights after every trip. If you have to get rid of snow, don’t forget to do all the lights. Remember that in order to avoid fines, keep your number plates clean too.
You should replace worn or damaged windscreen wiper blades and don’t leave your wipers on when you park up if there’s a risk of frost as this could damage them when you start up next. An additive in your screen wash can reduce the chance of freezing.
Following these simple tips and using common sense can seriously reduce the hazard of breaking down and costly repairs. Remember too that your van or fleet management insurance should be completely up to date to avoid additional expenses during the winter months.