Monday, February 26, 2018

Freight and Transport Insurance Groups Speak of Safety in Colder Weather

As an Icy Blast Hits Britain Experts Tell Commercial Drivers to Act Accordingly
Shipping News Feature
UK – Whilst our US contacts in Florida tell us today they are just fixing the last of their hurricane shutters in preparation for the coming season, here in Britain we have to prepare for what is likely to be the worst spell of weather this winter. Both road haulage freight contacts as well as insurers are issuing warnings to commercial drivers with regard to the imminent drop in temperature and the inevitable freezing conditions.

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) says its members can always access practical safety information on its website and has listed the most common sense items here. These include all the obvious, but oft neglected, advice such as allowing more travel time, keeping a weather eye open by ensuring you check on up to date conditions, carry suitable warm clothing/bedding and equipment (snow shovel/torch/phone and charger).

The FTA advises that, if your vehicle becomes stuck in deep snow, engage the diff-lock (if one is fitted) to regain forward traction, but remember to switch it off as soon as the vehicle is moving and before attempting a turn. Alternatively, use the highest gear you can to improve traction. Then try alternating between reverse and the forward gear until forward motion is possible. Avoid continual revving in a low gear, which could lead to the drive wheel digging a deeper rut. Malcolm Bingham, FTA's Head of Road Network Policy, says:

"Commercial drivers are often working to tight deadlines, but the best way to avoid disrupting your schedule in adverse weather is to take extra time to prepare adequately and follow safe driving advice. However good your skills, it is important to remember other road users do not have professional training and can easily get into trouble on ice and snow. Brake well in advance and leave far bigger stopping distances.

"The FTA works closely with the national highway authorities and the Met Office to communicate vital weather information and provides a traffic information service via its website, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to ensure that vital amber and red winter weather alerts are passed on to members as they are issued. If we know about it, our members do too and that means they're ahead of the pack when it comes to preparing for severe weather."

Driving at a suitable speed is something which sounds obvious but Simon Lole, from Peter Lole Insurance says it is often forgotten when a driver is striving to complete his journey, leading to more accidents and a corresponding rise in insurance claims. He continued:

”Time becomes the commercial driver’s enemy when the weather conditions deteriorate. The regulations on drivers hours are there to save lives, not take them. In inclement weather ensure you moderate your speed and allow for the fact others may get into difficulties, keep a much greater distance between you and the vehicle in front, if someone cuts in, let them and drop back, it’s simply not worth the risk of a collision.

”Driving in poor visibility is physically exhausting, carry some hot food in a flask and don’t push to get there just because you are running out of hours. Sometimes it is impossible to complete a delivery round in really bad weather. Review your situation regularly but don’t rely on leniency from the authorities should you go over your hours. If you do transgress, write the full details onto your tachograph roll to explain the conditions. If you can’t get back to base, stop where there is somewhere you can stay – and that doesn’t mean in the cab if it’s not fully equipped to deal with the conditions.”

The DVSA have issued a document ‘Emergency Exemption & Temporary Relaxation of Drivers’ Hours and Working Time Rules’, which gives a tentative nod to drivers as to how they can actually behave in drastic weather conditions. The key paragraph states ‘some examples of such events are delays caused by severe weather, road traffic accidents, mechanical breakdowns, interruptions of ferry services and any event that causes or is likely to cause danger to the life or health of people or animals.’ Note that this concession only allows for drivers to reach a suitable stopping place, not necessarily to complete their planned journey.

Although a ‘suitable stopping place’ is not defined in the EU drivers’ hours Regulations, these are quite specific about when a driver can deviate from the rules i.e. to ensure safety of persons, of vehicle or its load. Therefore, what a driver is carrying will determine where it would be suitable for them to stop. However really poor conditions may be seen as sufficient grounds for a driver without such a load, perhaps trapped on a motorway in a column of slow moving traffic due to the conditions, to work in excess of the legal limit, but only until he finds a safe place to stop. In other words think ahead and avoid the possibility of prosecution, or worse.