Navigating Winter Road Conditions: Important Safety Tips for Your FedEx Drivers

Depending on where you operate your FedEx route business, winter weather conditions may bring an added challenge this time of year. Many parts of the country experience heavy snow and ice, which means your delivery drivers will need to use extra caution when completing their routes.

According to the United States Department of Transportation, over 70 percent of U.S. roads are located in snowy regions. Not surprisingly, the majority of those roads are driven by truckers, often on shipping and delivery routes. Because snowy, slushy, and icy conditions heighten the risk of vehicle-related accidents and injuries, it is critical that your drive team understands how to handle driving in winter weather. The following tips will help you and your drivers stay safe throughout the season.

Be prepared. If you know your drivers may encounter some adverse weather on their routes, take a page out of the Boy Scouts handbook and don’t let them leave unprepared. Every truck should be equipped with essential supplies such as emergency blankets, extra clothing, plenty of food and water, jumper cables, tire chains (snow chains), extra fuel, a shovel, a first aid kit, flashlights, and anything else you can think of that might be useful.

Always complete a pre-trip inspection. Make it a mandatory policy that drivers inspect their vehicles before every trip. It may take a little extra time before they can get on the road, but it will be worth it to know that their vehicles are in good shape. Inspections should include things like checking tire pressure and tread, making sure all lights are working and the wiper blades are functioning properly, and checking the oil. When the weather turns cold, it increases the risk of issues with your vehicles, making routine inspections even more important.

Drive slowly, and keep a safe distance. Most winter weather accidents happen simply because drivers are going too fast or following too closely. When it is snowing or icy and visibility is low, drivers need more time to react when they hit a patch of ice or if the car in front of them suddenly stops. Especially with larger linehaul trailers, it is imperative that drivers maintain an appropriate speed and allow for more distance between them and other vehicles. This will allow everyone enough time to react if something unexpected happens.

Give full attention to the road. Distracted driving is another major cause of accidents on the road, resulting in nearly 3,000 deaths every year; the addition of wintry weather conditions only increases that danger. Using a two-way radio, looking at a cell phone or a navigation device, eating or drinking, and adjusting the dial on the radio can all be a source of distraction for your delivery drivers. Encourage them to reduce the amount of distractions they have in their cab so they can focus on driving safely.

Know how to drive on ice. Many accidents can be prevented with proper education, such as teaching drivers what to do if they hit a patch of black ice. Black ice occurs when a thin layer of ice forms on the road, but it looks wet rather than frozen. Drivers will often cruise over the area thinking it is only water, only to skid out of control once they hit the ice. When this happens, the most important thing is to avoid slamming on the brakes, which will cause the vehicle to slide even more. Instead, they should attempt to straighten out the wheel by moving it in the same direction they are spinning. This will help them gain control over the vehicle until they can reach non-icy ground.

Obey road signs and pay attention to weather advisories. If a driver sees a flashing sign warning them to slow down or avoid a road due to weather conditions, they should always heed the warning. Likewise, many areas will have signs directing drivers to tune in to a specific channel for local weather advisories. These should neve be ignored, since they provide important information about road conditions, detours, and other ways for drivers to stay safe.

Don’t be afraid to pull over safely. Nothing is more important than the safety of your drivers. In the event that roads become too dangerous to traverse, instruct your drivers to pull over in a safe area. Parking on the shoulder of the road can be hazardous if visibility is low. Instead, encourage them to look for a rest area or a gas station where they can park and wait out the storm.

Keep lights, mirrors, and windows clean. Visibility is especially important during the winter, when a dirty windshield or muddy tail lights can make a dangerous situation even worse. In larger vehicles such as trucks or trailers, visibility is often limited anway, so always advise your drivers to check their lights, mirrors, and windows before heading out in case they need to clear away any ice, snow, dirt, or debris.

Be careful over bridges. There is a reason you always see those signs that say, “Bridge ices before road.” When approaching bridges or overpasses during the winter, make sure drivers are extra cautious. Elevated structures are infamous for being icier than the rest of the road because they don’t have ground heat beneath them to help thaw the ice. Black ice is common on bridges in the winter, so it is important to slow down and proceed with caution over bridges when it is cold and snowy outside.

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