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Winter road safety tips for minibus operators

By Mark Thomason
Underwriting Manager

As the colder weather moves in, many minibuses will be being used out in local communities providing vital help to those in need.

Minibuses provide much-needed support for many people – from charities and community groups, to schools and local authorities, to business users.

Mile for mile, minibuses are statistically less likely to be involved in an accident than cars, however they are often carrying young, elderly, or vulnerable passengers, so there’s a great need to minimise any risk – especially when the roads are wet, icy or foggy.

The following information may serve as a useful reminder to minibus operators this winter.

Safe journey planning

Where possible, plan your route so you can stay on main roads as much as possible and away from potential hazards. Sat Navs are getting smarter, but may not always know the road conditions ahead, so use your judgement.

Check weather forecasts and local travel news before setting off and, if need be, allow extra time for delays.

Stop/start conditions in winter can drain fuel quicker than normal driving, so keep enough fuel in the tank.

Keep an ice scraper and de–icer in the vehicle so you can keep the windscreen and windows clear while out and about. Also, top-up the windscreen washer fluid to keep the windscreen clean.

Clear any snow and ice off the windscreen, windows, and mirrors before driving off. Ensure that lights and reflectors are clean and working, and clear snow off the vehicle roof if it’s safe for you to do so, to avoid snow sliding down the windscreen while driving.

Make sure that drivers know how to use the vehicle’s fog lights.

Keep an eye on tyre tread depth and air pressure in line with manufacturers recommendations.

If freezing temperatures are expected overnight, keep windscreen wipers switched off in park position. If the blades are set to ‘automatic’ they may try to move on ignition and could be damaged if frozen to the windscreen.

Battery problems are the most common cause of winter breakdowns, so keeping vehicles in good condition with regular maintenance should help prevent this.

A minibus is longer, wider, larger, and heavier and handles very differently than a car, which makes driver training essential to safety. Minibus operators should ensure that all drivers receive induction training and are regularly re-assessed (and re-trained as required), to maintain driving standards.

Observe the essentials of winter driving - slow down; leave more distance between you and the vehicle in front; and ease off the accelerator if steering starts to feel loose.

Watch out for thieves

As the UK leader in minibus insurance, we see, sadly all too often, the misery that heartless thieves cause to minibus owners.

it’s not unusual for drivers to defrost windscreens by letting the engine idle, but on cold winter mornings, thieves can be driving around looking for running engines left unattended. This type of vehicle crime is known to Police as ‘frosting’ or ‘frost-jacking’.

Always follow the number one rule - ‘Never leave your vehicle unattended with the engine running.’

Minibus insurance

Every motor vehicle using the public highway must be insured with at least third-party cover. Some local authorities or community transport groups have access to a fleet insurance scheme, otherwise operators must arrange their own insurance and ensure that it applies to all the people using the minibus and all the activities and journeys that are conducted.

It’s also worth making sure that there’s adequate breakdown cover in place, ideally with onward transportation for all passengers - to avoid a stranded minibus with vulnerable occupants being left at the roadside.

If you need to claim on your insurance

If you’re involved in an incident where you need to claim on your motor insurance, it’s important that you report it early, ideally from the roadside, but always the same day.

Reporting it early can reduce the time dealing with the claim and can help you to receive any claim payments faster, as well as helping to control the cost of future insurance premiums.

More information

With 30 years as the UK leader in minibus insurance, 50 years’ experience in insuring bus and coach fleets, and almost a century of insuring commercial vehicles, QBE is fully committed to proactively helping customers to manage risk and drive down claims.

You can find out more about how QBE helps motor fleet customers manage risk at our website here.

And you can download our free Minibus Operator Handbook, full of useful information, here.

Your contact

Your contact

Mark Thomason

Mark Thomason

Underwriting Manager - Commercial Lines