The end of the festive season doesn’t mark the end of the winter weather in the UK. In fact, it’s just the beginning. From sleet and snow to ice and rain, every year brings us an onslaught of freezing atmospheres to deal with. For any driver, being on the road can be nerve-wracking. For a HGV driver with a larger vehicle, the threats can be even more significant.
If you’ve recently gotten your HGV license and you’re keen to start your new job as a driver, it’s important to be properly prepared for the unique challenges the winter months can bring. Here are some important tips to keep you on track.
Prepare your Vehicle
First, you’re going to need to make sure your HGV is in good condition. Most bigger companies hiring HGV drivers will help with this, by hiring specialists to check the fleet on their behalf. However, it always pays to do a few checks yourself, if only for peace of mind.
Start by examining the following things:
- Your heater: You really want to make sure you can use this, particularly in freezing weather.
- Tyres: Check things like balance, wear, and pressure before you get on the road.
- Windscreen wipes: Ensure they’re in good condition and ready to wipe away snow.
- Defrosters: These absolutely must be in good condition too.
- Block heaters: Check the engine block heater to prevent overnight freezing.
- Fluid levels: Is everything topped up?
- Lights: You’ll need these to help you get around in those darker days.
- Exhaust: This should be clear from any snow or ice
Follow any guidelines set by your boss when determining whether your HGV is ready for action too. If you notice anything out of place, ask before you get behind the wheel.
While your vehicle might be the most worrying thing in winter weather conditions, the weather might also have an impact on you. As a driver, you may need to adjust the way you drive during cold spells, so you don’t fall victim to icy patches. Mentally preparing can be an important part of staying safe on every journey. As obvious as it may sound, practice driving carefully. Sudden, sharp movements can cause you to lose control of a big vehicle. Remember to:
- Slow down: Most accidents happen because drivers are travelling too fast. This is especially problematic for HGV drivers because it takes longer to bring the vehicle to a stop.
- Allow for extra space: Increasing your stopping distance means you’re less likely to end up in trouble if your tires skid or slide. While there’s often a tendency to associate hazardous weather with snow, and ice, fog and rain can be problematic too.
- Be consistent: Stay steady and go easy on the brakes. Make sure you’re feeling confident behind the wheel.
Create a Survival Kit
With a bit of luck, you won’t need to use this kit at all during your time as a HGV driver – but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Make sure you have the right equipment on-hand for every possible situation you might encounter in dangerous weather conditions.
For instance, you might need:
- An ice scraper and de-icer
- A shovel and a bag of salt or sand
- Jump leads to get you back on the road
- Warm clothes and a thick blanket
- A flask of hot tea or coffee
- Plenty of water and extra food
- Sunglasses (for glare)
- A first aid kit
- A high visibility jackets
- A flashlight
It’s best to ensure you have extra fuel too, just in case your journeys take a little longer than planned, or you find you need to take an alternative route.
Check Before you Drive
Checking a few things before you drive can make your life a lot easier. For instance, keeping up-to-date with weather information, and aware of changing conditions and road closures will stop you from getting stuck on the road. Consider planning your route in the morning before the trip and looking for any issues ahead of schedule.
It’s also important to be aware of certain hazards which can cause a lot of problems for HGV drivers, such as:
- Black ice: This is a dangerous road condition which often presents itself as a layer of transparent ice, making the road look wet. It can very easily cause your HGV to slip and swerve if you’re not extremely careful.
- Bridges: Gritters don’t always treat bridges in the UK, so it’s best to make sure you’re taking extra care when approaching any elevated structure.
- Heavy rain: Make sure you know how dangerous heavy rain can be when it comes to damaging your visibility. Hold the steering wheel straight and avoid hitting the brakes too hard.
- Fog: In thick fog, you’ll need to slow down and use your lights as much as possible. Don’t feel pressured to drive faster than you feel confident with.
Always Put Safety First
When you’re trying to thrive as an HGV driver, it’s tempting to put speed and getting to your destination first. However, safety should always be the most important thing. Underestimating the dangers of winter weather or pushing yourself to travel faster and further than you reasonably can may lead to horrific results.
Part of putting safety first is knowing when to stop. There’s a good time and a bad time to stop driving. When weather conditions become so bad that driving just isn’t a possibility anymore, don’t just slam the breaks, or swerve off to the side, as this increases your risk of issues. Instead, look for a safe place to stop as quickly as possible.
You may have to wait for a while for visibility to improve in some cases, so just keep your boss updated on your situation.
Stay Safe in Winter
Though HGV driving can be an exciting and well-paying career for many people throughout the UK, it’s important to make sure you’re approaching each job with care. During the winter months, when the roads of the UK can be particularly dangerous, knowing how to stay safe is essential. With the tips above, and your HGV certification, you can stay ahead of the bad weather.
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