Features & Interviews

Winter driving – how industry can help fleets to prepare, plan and proceed with caution

26 October 2023 #Features & Interviews

Poor visibility, hostile weather, slippery roads and cold temperatures are just some of the challenges that winter driving brings – but there is a lot that industry can do to support fleet managers and drivers to mitigate these risks, making the roads safer for all.

Manufacturers, dealers, leasing companies and workshops must provide as much quality information to customers as possible about winter safety and the right choices for the fleet application of their products.


Given that tyres are the sole point of contact between the vehicle and road surface, tyre health is crucial to handling, braking and cornering. Charity TyreSafe emphasises “ACT” – air, condition and tread.

Proper air inflation means that the tyre surface which is in contact with the road doesn’t deform or give way, but has an optimal surface area which distributes the weight evenly.

Drivers should also check the tyre isn’t physically damaged, with tears or cuts, and isn’t showing uneven wear which could be the result of misaligned wheels or axles.

Tread is designed for water clearance, with all those grooves scooping up water from the road surface and throwing it clear – rather than allowing it to coat the surface of the tyre. A 6mm tread can clear a bucketful of water in just seven seconds.

Conversely at tread depths below 3mm, braking power is reduced substantially (or stopping distance increased). In MIRA tests, a car with tyres at the legal limit of 1.6mm took five car lengths further to stop than the same car with new tyres.

The difference between 2mm tread and the legal limit is 0.4mm. That’s less than the thickness of a credit card. This can be shaved from the tyres in one harsh braking event.


The choice of tyre is essential to driving safety. Good information steering fleets towards the appropriate choice of tyre for their application and region can give fleets better value and enhance customer loyalty, as well as improving their on-road performance.

British weather doesn’t consistently require winter tyres but they are designed to give significantly better grip and water clearance. The compounds in winter tyres stay supple at lower temperatures and grip the roads better than summer tyres in the cold.

However, if fleets switch to winter tyres, then the summer tyres must be cleaned and stored properly at a suitable temperature.


For many fleets all-season tyres will be the best compromise. They offer much better handling in winter months but are more durable than winter tyres in summer months. All-season tyres cost slightly more, but the benefits can include greater safety, lower fuel, and longer tyre life.


Before setting off on winter journeys, drivers should check their lights, heating systems, tyres, brakes, ignition, fluid levels, including screenwash, and wipers.

All snow and ice must be cleared from the whole vehicle, not just the windows. Chunks of ice or snow flying off the roof or bonnet can be a hazard to others.

It’s worth reminding drivers that leaving vehicles idling, with or without the driver is illegal, so manual preparation of windows and bodywork is preferable. Electric vehicles can be internally preconditioned while charging, but still need to be manually cleared of icy deposits.

Drivers should also ensure that they have appropriate clothing, blankets, water, long lasting food, a torch and a charged mobile phone in case of an emergency or breakdown.


Check the weather forecast. If the weather is inclement, planners and drivers should consider whether the journey is essential. If it is, choosing a route which will mitigate the effects of extreme weather, avoiding places likely to flood, or exposed areas in high winds, can reduce risk exposure.

Remember, winds over 30mph can make driving hazardous, and at 40mph and above, vehicles are at risk of being blown over.


Poor visibility, wet roads, or slippery surfaces all necessitate drivers slowing down. Drivers should manage the space in front of the vehicle, and allow greater distances between the vehicle and other road users.

Better anticipation will reduce the need to brake. If it is necessary to brake, drivers should brake as soon and as gently as is safe, as this reduces the likelihood of skidding.

Remember: in winter, allow more time; allow more space; and proceed with caution.

DfBB’s Van Driver Toolkit offers excellent resources to prepare drivers for seasonal driving changes. Sign up, and distribute the toolbox talk pdfs to customers, whether individual drivers or fleets. It costs nothing, and it may save a life.

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