Written by Jenn Miller | Curriculum Development Coordinator
Snow, Ice, and winter driving; all part and parcel to Canadian life. For most Canadians, when the winter weather really gets severe, they avoid unnecessary travel in order to evade potential traffic disasters. However, not all of us have the choice to stay off the roads. When driving is your job, you may not be able to avoid being out on those icy, snow-covered roads and highways.
Winter Roads Are Dangerous
Even the most experienced driver has met their match at one time or another on an ice-slicked or snow covered winter road. Winter roads are dangerous because tires – even snow tires – do not gain traction as easily on icy surfaces, which may result in slipping, sliding, skidding, reduced stopping capability, and loss of control. To further make things dangerous, winter drivers must also contend with black ice – a phenomenon that sees a thin layer of ice develop on road ways that is virtually undetectable to drivers. Many don’t realize that they’ve come across black ice until their vehicle is fishtailing out from under them. What makes black ice even trickier is the fact that, because the ground warms at a slower rate than the air, black ice can be present even when the temperature outside is above freezing.
How Employers Can Make Winter Driving Safe
If your company employs drivers, has a vehicle fleet, or is otherwise dependent on driving, then simply staying off the roads during bad weather may not be an option that is feasible to your business’s operations. More important than your bottom line might be the fact that people rely on your essential services, or people count on you for something that is required for them to be able to deliver an essential service. When winter driving is a reality for your company, consider the following tips to ensure the safety of your fleet and drivers.
Every Canadian knows that winter is inevitable. Don’t let bad weather or early snowstorms catch you by surprise. Perform a pre-winter maintenance on your vehicles including the following:
- Install four matching winter tires.
- Get a winter tune up.
- Install winter wiper blades.
- Ensure all fleet vehicles are equipped with winter survival packs.
- Top up all fluids.
Preparing vehicles for winter travel ensures that it is ready to withstand the harsh snow and ice that Mother Nature promises each winter, but what about your drivers? Regardless whether they drive large trucks or small cars, drivers who must drive in all conditions should be prepared for tough winter drives. To do so, consider the following:
- Check the weather ahead of time – no surprises.
- Plan your route.
- Allow drivers extra time, and be more lenient with delivery deadlines.
- Be alert.
- Ensure that a charged cell phone is provided.
Policies and Training
Consider implementing policies that makes safe winter driving practices mandatory.
- Complete a vehicle inspection to confirm winter preparedness before each shift.
- Drop speed to match conditions.
- Maintain appropriate and safe vehicle following distances.
- Accelerate and brake slowly.
- Don’t try to overcorrect skids.
- No cruise control during inclement weather.
- Conduct annual review of emergency reporting procedures prior to each winter season.
- Consider having professional driver training completed where appropriate or required.
Outside of essential services and companies that support them, employers need to use reasonable precaution when determining whether or not workers or drivers need to be out on the roads during especially harsh weather events. If you work in an office setting or elsewhere where remote work is possible, consider allowing employees to work from home during bad weather. You may also consider implementing a later start time on particularly bad mornings, to allow time for snow removal teams to clear roads before employees attempt to make the drive to work.
If roads are closed, under no circumstances should an employee ever attempt to drive on them. Our provincial and federal police close these roads with very good reason, primarily with safety of travellers in mind. There is never a delivery, meeting, or service deadline so important that a worker needs to risk traversing a closed highway. In most instances, if public transit isn’t running, or roads are closed, you may wish to review your own driving operations during that period to see if it is essential that you remain on the roads.
This winter, remember that snow and ice-covered roadways and vehicles are a way of Canadian life, and we must remain cognizant of the danger that these conditions create on our roads. However, preparedness and planning for inevitable long and cold Canadian winters can take much of the cold sting out of long, cold wintertime drives.
As seen in our December Be Safe Newsletter