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Winter road safety tips for transport operators

By James Billings
Practice Leader, Motor Risk Solutions

Winter is coming… And drivers need to be prepared.

With darker evenings and colder temperatures leading to rain, ice and snow on the roads, winter is the season when drivers of all vehicles need to take the most care.

Along with cyclists and pedestrians being harder to see, here are a few other things for drivers, fleet managers and transport operators to think about.

Avoid bridge strikes

QBE has recently partnered with Network Rail to raise the issue of bridge strikes - a serious problem for transport operators, particularly heavy goods and passenger-carrying vehicles. 

On average, five drivers a day collide with a Network Rail bridge. That's almost 2,000 bridge strikes every year – causing risk to road and rail users, thousands of hours delay to the transport network, and around £23 million in damage.

It’s an important issue for transport managers to be aware of as there’s often an increase in bridge strikes at this time of year, with factors including shorter days; a rise in deliveries leading up to Christmas; and temporary drivers being unfamiliar with routes or vehicle heights.

There’s ‘preventing bridge strikes’ e-training available at discounted rates for QBE customers, so please get in touch for more information.

Watch out. There’s a thief about

On cold winter mornings, it’s not unusual for drivers to warm up the vehicle and defrost the windscreen by letting the engine idle. Because of this, gangs of thieves are known to drive around looking for cars, vans and other vehicles with 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.’

Keep moving safely

As a leading insurer of business and commercial vehicles, we know that driving too closely to the vehicle in front is one of the main contributory factors in ‘Hit Third Party in Rear’ road traffic incidents. When the road is wet, icy or foggy you need to leave a much bigger stopping distance gap, particularly if driving a larger vehicle such as a truck, bus or coach. Remember the ‘two second rule’ for cars and motorcycles. You’ll need four seconds and sometimes much more for larger vehicles.

Our top tips to keep moving safely this winter also include:

  • Driving at an inappropriate speed or rushing when you’re behind schedule can lead to collisions, so keep an eye on weather forecasts and travel news before setting off and allow extra journey time if need be.
  • Plan your route so you can stay on main roads as much as possible and away from potential hazards. Sat Navs don’t always know the road conditions ahead, so use your judgement.
  • Make sure you’re familiar with the vehicle’s controls, for example knowing how to turn on the fog lights if needed.
  • Don’t drive off until ice and snow are cleared off the windscreen, windows and mirrors and you have good all-round visibility, including ensuring that lights and reflectors are clean.
  • To avoid snow sliding down your windscreen while driving, clear snow off the vehicle roof if you have safe access.

When it comes to vehicle breakdowns, battery problems are the most common cause but keeping vehicles in good condition with regular maintenance should help prevent this issue. Some other things to note include:

  • Check that all tyres have sufficient tread depth and are properly inflated in line with manufacturers’ recommendations.
  • Keep enough fuel in the tank. Stop/start conditions can drain fuel quicker than normal driving.
  • Top-up the windscreen washer fluid so you can keep your windscreen clean.
  • Keep an ice scraper, de–icer and gloves in the vehicle so you can keep the windscreen and windows clear while out and about.
  • If freezing temperatures are expected overnight, keep windscreen wipers switched off in park position. If wipers are set to ‘automatic’ they may try to move on ignition and could be damaged if frozen to the windscreen.

You may find our free factsheets useful to read and share.

Winter Driving

Preventing ‘De-frosting’ Vehicle Crime

Driving in Fog

Driving in Wet Conditions

Driving on Flooded Roads

Using Snow Socks

Do you know a Road Safety Hero?

Road Safety Week is coordinated annually by Brake, the road safety charity. Road Safety Week 2021 runs from 15-21 November.

This year’s theme is ‘Road Safety Heroes’ - celebrating the heroic work of road safety professionals. See for more information.

Risk management services for QBE customers

QBE helps businesses build resilience through risk management and insurance.

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

QBE customers can access self-assessment questionnaires and a library of risk management material, along with a panel of approved partners who offer training, e-learning and other services at specially reduced rates. You can find more information in our Motor risk management service offerings brochure, and find out more about how QBE helps businesses to manage risk here.

Need to claim? Report it early

Finally, a reminder that if you have an incident and need to make an insurance claim, it’s important that you report it as soon as possible, ideally the same day. Reporting a claim early can save time and help you to receive any claim payments faster, as well as allowing us to help mitigate the cost of third-party claims.