The whole of the UK has been at the receiving end of some heavy winter weather these past few weeks, with a mix of rain, snow and ice threatening much of the UK major road networks, with many businesses up and down the country struggling to deliver some of their services.
Whilst some of us have been advised to work from home and not to travel, some companies, likewise to ourselves, have to deal with the tricky conditions put in front of us, with our staff continuously travelling the roads country wide no matter the weather. Whether this be through our heavy haulage service or by emptying cesspits down country roads, we require travel in our day-to-day running as a company.
With this weather hitting the country, this certainly signifies that we are most definitely in the midst of winter, with a need to focus on winter driving and being more careful when on the roads. With these inevitable changes in driving conditions bought about by the weather, it’s essential that we are all prepared to handle everything that is thrown at us, no matter what type of vehicle we drive. From heavy downpours to the potential of thick snow, weather will obstruct the way we drive for the next few months, as proven by the last week alone.
In the early stages of winter, the early dark evenings and the low daylight sun are just two issues that require our attention. There are legal obligations that must be complied with, whether as a company or a driver. The company must consider its duty of care towards its workforce and drivers should show knowledge of the law and act responsibly. Our drivers here at DC Merrett are trained specifically in this field of safe driving, no matter the weather or time of day. This is a need for many businesses across the UK, especially with the heavy vehicles we have attached to our machines. We are not only liable for our own machines, but for others’ as well, therefore there is even more need to be careful when driving in difficult conditions.
This year, 2022, the new Highway Code also brings into play more stringent advice regarding driving in winter conditions that must be adhered to, where failure to do so will result in substantial fines for a driver of up to £1,000.
Let’s look at the employer’s legal obligations first and consider guidance to ensure legal compliance. Driving on company business is a high-risk task that an employee undertakes on behalf of the company. Unfortunately, many employers either overlook this or are just not aware of their obligations related to their duty of care towards the employee.
Employers should ensure there is a policy in place related to the vehicle fleet (including ‘grey fleet’) that demonstrates legal compliance. This policy should include:
- Are the vehicles fit for purpose?
- Are the drivers licensed to drive the vehicle?
- Are all drivers able to demonstrate both mental and physical wellbeing?
- Are all driver and vehicle documents checked and recorded?
- Is advice and guidance related to winter driving available and distributed to all?
- Does a policy of ‘vehicle safety checks’ exist, and is this document distributed to all drivers?
Now let’s consider the employees’ legal obligations. All employees who drive for work should comply with the following:
- Initially always ask the question, “Is the journey necessary?”
- Carry out regular vehicle safety checks, especially tyres and lights, in winter
- Plan your journey, study the weather forecast, provide an ETA to those at your destination
- Ensure your vehicle is equipped with a mobile phone charger, ice-scraper, blanket, de-icer, high-visibility clothing and a hazard warning triangle, and make sure you wear warm/suitable clothes
- Defrost the vehicle, ensuring all snow is removed from glass areas, lights and your roof, as this could either fall down onto your windscreen or blow off onto somebody else’s (Highway Code Sect 229 and Road Traffic Law-DVLR Reg 23; Con & Use Regs 30;)
- Ensure you have plenty of fuel as your journey may take longer than usual (see section on EVs)
- Check your wiper blades are clean from dirt and are in good working order
- Always drive on dipped headlights, not driving lights (Highway Code Sect 226; RVLR Regs 25 & 27)
- Remove any mud from your number plates
- Check your brakes are working properly before you set off
- Allow extra time for your journey due to the weather conditions and increased traffic
Here at DC Merrett, we follow all the right procedures to ensure the safest journey possible for our drivers and vehicles. If you have any more questions surrounding this line of work and the services we provide during the winter, then do not hesitate to get in contact with us today!