With hopes of an Indian summer fading, the UK is rapidly growing darker and colder as we head into autumn. In just over a month the clocks will go back, bringing winter to the UK and bringing a seasonal host of road safety risks. So what can fleet managers do to protect their business fleet this winter?
Daylight savings time ends
The official start to winter in the UK will be Sunday 30th October, when the clocks go back. This will mean that we benefit from (slightly) lighter mornings, but unfortunately we have also historically experienced a spike in road traffic accidents and fatalities. Every autumn when the clocks go back and the sun sets earlier in the day, UK roads become more dangerous.
According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA), pedestrian deaths in 2012 rose from 32 in September to an average of 57 over the following three months. The overall casualty rate also increased, from 664 per billion vehicle miles in September to 692 per billion vehicle miles in November.
So why the sudden threat to driver safety? Well, it’s thought that the sudden jump to darker evenings poses a road safety risk, as drivers and pedestrians adjust to a newfound dependence on artificial light from headlights and street lamps. Winter tiredness is also a natural result of the seasonal drop in temperature and lack of sunlight, which affects our sleep cycles and can lead to fatigue.
Winter driver health and safety
Seasonal fatigue can affect anyone, and van driver welfare should be a big concern for fleet managers over the winter period. We’ve worked previously with national road safety charity Brake to raise awareness of winter road safety dangers, and presented van hire customers with a guide to safe winter driving and an emergency pack for any vehicle downtime.
Brake would like to see the UK change the way that time is adjusted between different seasons. Single/ Double Summertime would mean that the clocks would stay one hour ahead until March, when they would then be put forward another hour for spring. This would put Britain into the Central European Time Zone, giving us consistently darker mornings and an extra hour of evening daylight. According to ROSPA, this could potentially result in around 450 fewer injuries and fatalities on UK roads every year.
Keep vans on the road over winter
However, for the time being, fleet managers must promote driver safety and minimise van downtime by educating their employees. Here are some quick tips that could help your vehicle fleet to stay safe over winter:
• The Highway Code requires that drivers keep vehicle lights and windscreens clean and free from obstructions. If your driver cannot see the road ahead, or cannot be seen by other traffic, your business fleet will become a huge road safety hazard – so make sure all lights and windscreen wipers are working properly before driving.
• Look after your tyres, checking tread and pressure on a regular basis - Kwik Fit recommends checks every 2 weeks. Last winter’s harsh weather conditions caused damage to roads around the UK, and an incredible £12 billion was set aside to fund repairs. Loose gravel, road salt and potholes can all take their toll on tyres, and regular check-ups can minimise van downtime.
• Care for your drivers by preparing for the worst. Whether a fleet vehicle breaks down, gets snowed in, or is simply caught in a traffic jam, driver health and safety should be a top priority. An emergency winter pack containing staples such as a warm blanket, torch, bottled water and chocolate can keep employees comfortable.
• Educate your drivers on the risks of winter driving to keep vans on the road, and remind them when the clocks are due to change next month.
Here at Flex-E-Rent, we work to keep vans on the road all year round. Our contract van hire customers benefit from comprehensive maintenance and breakdown services, which help to minimise van downtime and delight fleet managers. Expert support is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, nationwide.