Winter Driving Checklist: Staying Safe on Courier Jobs

If you make a living doing courier jobs, when winter rolls around, as it does every year without fail, it’s an important time to take stock and review your driving behaviour. Wintery roads require a different kind of driving skills and, particularly when you’re out there for long periods of time, you really can’t be too careful.

Here are a few rules to live by, to keep you safe on the roads in the winter while doing your courier jobs:

  1. Keep your distance: Allow at least four times the recommended stopping distance from the vehicle in front on a snowy road. You could leave as much as ten times the normal stopping distance so you are not relying on your brakes to be able to stop.
  2. Plan your journey:  Allow more time for your courier jobs and plan to use busier roads, as they are more likely to have been gritted. Try to avoid quiet country lanes, as they’re unlikely to have been cleared, and if you do get lost or stuck, you might end up out of signal and struggle to summon help.
  3. Check the forecast: Obtain weather information before you set off on your day’s courier jobs. Keep up to date with changing conditions and closed routes via the radio or by regularly calling into base.
  4. Check your vehicle:  Put your vehicle through a pre-winter check to flag up any potential problems. Winter driving places extra demands on your van, and certain aspects become more crucial than ever. A simple check of lights, fluid levels, tyre tread depths and pressures might reveal issues. If your wiper blades are worn, make sure they’re changed to avoid smear, and top up your screen wash. Don’t forget to get your garage to check your battery and the concentration of your anti-freeze as well.
  5. Battery: In winter, the battery will run down quicker than in warmer weather. Make sure you do regular long journeys to top it up or trickle-charge the battery.
  6. Fuel: Keep your tank topped up – that way if you are caught out while you’re out doing courier jobs you’ll have enough fuel to make it home or run the engine to keep warm. (It’s essential to keep snow from blocking the exhaust as noxious fumes can leak into the vehicle.)
  7. Visibility: Falling snow can cut visibility dramatically, so dip your headlights and reduce your speed. Even during the day, using your headlights in winter is as much about being seen as it is about seeing. Road markings and traffic signs can be obscured too, so take extra care at junctions.
  8. Winter tyres or snow socks: Carrying chains will help in the most extreme situations, but snow socks are a better bet; they’re far easier to fit and won’t damage the road surface if it isn’t entirely covered. Fitting winter tyres is just as good, as they are more effective below 7°C in any weather conditions, and offer more grip on loose or slippery surfaces.
  9. Brush the snow off your car: It can fall from the roof and obscure the rear window while driving, or worse, fly off at high speed and hit the vehicles behind. If it happens to have tree debris – twigs or chunks of bark – hidden within, it could cause serious damage. Make sure your rear-view mirrors and rear window are cleared too, so that you can see what’s happening behind you, and your side windows so that you can see what’s coming at junctions. Do not use water to de-ice windscreens because hot water can crack the glass and the water will only freeze again on the screen or on the ground where you are standing.
  10. If you do get stuck: Don’t spin your wheels. Instead, try to dig away the snow in front of the wheels and sprinkle salt or sand, as this will help to give you extra traction. If you are trapped in your vehicle, you can stay warm by running the engine, however it is vital that the exhaust pipe is not blocked by snow. If the engine fumes cannot escape, you could be overwhelmed by carbon monoxide gas, which is highly toxic. Even if it is safe, do not run the engine for more than 10 or 15 minutes in each hour.
  11. Pack an emergency kit: In case you do end up stranded, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re ready. Packing an emergency kit can save you a lot of stress if you get stuck in your van in a bad weather emergency.

Remember, snow, ice, fog and other inclement conditions can catch out even the most experienced driver, so the best advice, as simple as it may be is: keep calm and be prepared.

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