Last winter, haulage companies across the UK were severely affected by the extreme cold weather, with some being cut off and, in some cases, unable to operate for days. This winter, the industry's workers are being asked to prepare adequately for the cold winter days and exercise precaution when on the nation's roads.
The UK Highways Agency has called on haulage drivers to prepare for the winter by planning journeys around the weather, as they aim to keep the road networks clear. The agency's key messages for road users including haulage companies are:
• Be informed (check traffic and weather updates).
• Be prepared (ensure your vehicle is ready).
• Be aware (of protocol for driving in severe weather).
• Be wise (conditions may chance so drive with care).
The Highways Agency has implemented an alert system to help haulage companies respond to severe weather and snow. There are two alert systems - red and amber.
An amber alert will advise drivers to take caution as traffic conditions are highly likely to be affected by the weather. Drivers should monitor the traffic and weather news on radio bulletins and use alternative routes where possible.
A red alert on the other hand, will only be issued in exceptional circumstances where journeys will be affected by severe weather or snow. During the duration of the red alert, haulage drivers should get off the network and find a safe place to park. Drivers can keep abreast of the alert status via radio bulletins, TV or the Freight Transport Association or Road Haulage Association networks. The agency has said it is already prepared for the winter and has 250,000 tonnes of salt at its disposal to grit the roads.
Money Supermarket insurance expert Pete Harrison has also advised hauliers to take precautionary measures - like checking their oil levels, and tyres for thread depth before hitting the roads. He recommends keeping items like a first aid kit, torch, reflective triangle sign, high visibility jacket, warm clothing and jump leads in the event of an emergency.
Hauliers also ought to be extra careful with ice and snow on the roads. Last year, the UK's Department for Transport reported over 18,000 crashes as a result of snow or ice. Winter tyres may be worth considering, though most haulage companies find them too expensive. Otherwise, there are other things that drivers can do to ensure they keep safe on the nation's roads. Super market giant and insurance provider ASDA has advised drivers to ensure that their visibility isn't affected by dirty windscreens. It says drivers should keep a bottle of windscreen wash rather than water, which can freeze. Clearing windscreens of ice and snow is crucial as failing to do so may result in a fine and points on your license from police, ASDA warned.
Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for haulage companies and drivers across the UK and Europe. It provides services for matching back loads and to buy and sell road transport and delivery work in the domestic and international markets.