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December is the busiest time of year for many van operators and even with a festive playlist on the stereo to keep your spirits up, the sheer volume of work can seem overwhelming.  But as FTA’s Head of Vans Mark Cartwright reminds us, it’s important to remember other road users when you’re rushing from drop to drop.

Van drivers don’t need reminding how hard it can be working in wet and cold weather, but the dark nights and winter temperatures have a big impact on other road users too.   Being a great van driver is all about adapting your driving to the road conditions and considering those around you.

Temperatures on the ground can be much lower than air temperatures, so even if you haven’t had to scrape the van in the morning there can still be ice on the road.  Leave a bigger stopping distance in winter weather and consider other drivers who may not be as experienced or sensible as you.

Van drivers don’t need reminding how hard it can be working in wet and cold weather, but the dark nights and winter temperatures have a big impact on other road users too.   Being a great van driver is all about adapting your driving to the road conditions and considering those around you.

Temperatures on the ground can be much lower than air temperatures, so even if you haven’t had to scrape the van in the morning there can still be ice on the road.  Leave a bigger stopping distance in winter weather and consider other drivers who may not be as experienced or sensible as you.

Well-maintained headlights are particularly important at this time of year.   A missing lamp is illegal for a reason – in the dark a single light can be very confusing, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists who might assume you’re a two-wheeled vehicle and completely misjudge your size.  Make sure you test your lights on a daily basis.  The easiest way to do this is to build them into a regular walk-round check.  FTA has a great video: Youtube - theftachannel - Walk Round Check

Speaking of cyclists and motorcyclists, they are particularly badly affected by headlights left on high-beam.  The dazzling light is made far worse by a helmet visor or glasses, making it almost impossible for them to see.   Failing to dip your lights might be irritating for car drivers, but it can be deadly for those on two wheels.

We all like a good moan about the state of the roads, but cyclists are particularly badly affected by puddles and potholes.  Defects near the kerb can fill with water and turn into mini skating rinks in cold weather.  So, give them a bit of extra room and be understanding if they pull out to avoid a hazard you might not be able to see. 

Finally, if you’re drinking over the holiday make sure you understand the ‘next day’ risks.  According to the Department for Transport, one in five people caught drink-driving are arrested the morning after they went out.  If you drink five pints of beer and head home at midnight, the alcohol will still be in your bloodstream at ten o’clock the next morning.   Having a cooked breakfast, cold shower or big glass of water won’t make any difference.

Posted: 15/12/2017 14:13:30 by Ryan Kneller | with 0 comments


We all know winter is coming and yet every year it seems to creep up on us. So, when the clocks change, it’s an ideal time to do some simple checks to make sure you and your van are ready for the dark nights and cold weather to come.

The FTA Van Excellence Scheme’s code of practice requires daily vehicle checks, but it’s worthwhile spending a little extra time in the autumn to avoid costly breakdowns and accidents over the winter months.

Of course, it makes sense to do an extra tyre check to ensure they’re well within legal limits but nobody wants to be changing a tyre in heavy rain or snow, so look out for defects that could lead to a flat or blow-out.

The law says windscreens and windows must be kept clean and free from obstructions to vision and in the winter, that means dirt, smears and mist. Test the demister to make sure it works effectively and top-up your washer bottle with plenty of anti-freeze. Make sure worn-out wiper blades are replaced. That way you’ll avoid any risk of a fine or points on your licence.

It’s important to look after drivers in the winter too. Poor eyesight makes driving at night even harder. A regular eye check will pinpoint bad night vision and make sure appropriate glasses or contact lenses can be worn. Remember it’s also an offence to drive with vision that doesn’t meet the legal standard for driving.

Traffic jams can be longer and more frequent in bad weather, so pack a winter kit with extra warm clothing, snacks and a shovel and torch.

When you’re working to a tight schedule, it’s easy to forget how dangerous ice can be. But take a few moments to risk assess and park safely to make sure you don’t end up slipping as you get in and out of your vehicle.

Employers can join the FTA Van Excellence scheme to get help and advice on implementing practical policies to keep staff and vehicles safe this winter. You can also find winter safety products and equipment via FTA Shop.
 
(The views and opinions expressed by the authors of these blogs are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Freight Transport Association)
 

Posted: 29/09/2017 09:54:49 by Global Administrator | with 0 comments


It’s that time of year again, when the rumours that we are in for the coldest winter in a century, a decade or even a millennium begin to fly around. This year, predictions have ranged from apocalyptic snowstorms (thanks to the early arrival of a migratory swan at a nature reserve) to the hottest winter ever, thanks to the highest ever recorded November temperatures.

Nonetheless, we are all aware that winter is nearly here and the colder weather will bring its own set of challenges for the fleet manager, who needs to be prepared for every eventuality.

As a fleet manager it is your duty to make certain that both your vehicles and drivers are prepared for winter. For most drivers it has been almost eight months since they last experienced winter conditions and as such may not be entirely used to the reduced visibility and slippery roads that they may have to contend with. It is therefore vital that drivers are reminded to maintain a safe distance when following another vehicle and that they are aware of the possibility of diminished traction and vehicle control.

Poor weather conditions adversely affect road conditions and generally mean that the number of vehicle breakdowns and accidents will more than double throughout the winter months. To prevent this unwanted downtime and cost it is vital to ensure your fleet’s vehicles are properly equipped and prepared for the challenging winter conditions, and are checked to ensure any minor faults are corrected before they become more serious.

One easy way of ensuring this is getting a vehicle health check from technicians who are experts in safety. As a member of the FTA’s Van Excellence programme, we appreciate just how important it is we do this with our own fleet – and as a business we are committed to raising the standards of vehicle condition, safe working, driver licensing, driver behaviour, compliance and training.

With that in mind, we offer a 20-point check for cars and vans to ensure your vehicles are in the best condition possible before heading out on the road. On top of checking the vehicle’s tyres, this covers fluid levels, a primary brake check, battery, exhaust, shock absorbers, oil, lights, windscreen wipers and screen wash. It sounds simple, but this kind of safety inspection is a cost-effective way of preventing weather-related vehicle downtime. You can also be sure this work is carried out in the safest way possible thanks to our RoSPA Gold accreditation – we’re the only national tyre specialist to hold this accolade.

Tyres play such a critical role in a fleet’s safety and performance that they deserve to be serviced and managed by experts. ATS Euromaster’s mobile service network means that fleet tyre inspections and maintenance for all types of vehicles can be carried out at the customer’s depot. What’s more, our SAFEContractor and the Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme (CHAS) accreditation, means you can be assured that the work will be carried out in accordance with the highest standards for health and safety.

Winter always places increased challenges for the safety of fleet vehicles. However, by following a few simple steps, it’s possible to help ensure that you and your employees enjoy a safe and productive winter.
 
Stan Rudowski is the Group Head of Health, Safety and Technical Services, ATS Euromaster

Posted: 23/11/2015 12:02:20 by Global Administrator | with 0 comments


If one or two long-range weather reports are to be believed, this Christmas might just be one to live long in the memory for youngsters, even if their parents might be marginally less enamoured. As the festive period draws ever closer, those obligatory white Christmas headlines are greeted with unparalleled levels of excitement amongst youngsters, with the prospect of snowballs and sleighs too exciting to contemplate. For commercial vehicle drivers out on the road, however, such a scenario is not quite as eagerly anticipated.

As we approach the colder months, the need to complete the daily tyre checks is more important than ever, and will offset those worries about seasonal safety. Even if your fleet does not fit cold weather (‘winter’) tyres per se, it is good practice to ensure that tyres have good remaining tread depth (at least 7mm). If you operate on the continent, ensure that you are aware of the winter tyre regulations in that country and fit M&S or Alpine marked tyres accordingly.

Bridgestone boasts a range of premium tyres to ensure that commercial drivers are in the safest position possible when out on the roads over the festive period, with our M788 tyre a particularly pertinent product. The all-season advantage of the M788 means that it is suitable for use in Europe. It means the tyres do not have to be changed before travelling to countries like Austria, so we are providing the best all round tyre for all seasons, with safety never being compromised.

For more information about Bridgestone and our range of premium commercial tyre products, visit www.bridgestone.co.uk

Posted: 09/11/2015 11:57:18 by Global Administrator | with 0 comments


My name is Wyn Skyrme, a Vehicle Inspection Engineer specialising in HGV and PSV training and vehicle inspections. In my 32 years engineering experience I have been to many places, however my trip in early September to the Falkland Islands Government (Islas Malvinas) has been one to remember.

Ice-Road-Inspections-from-South-Wales-to-the-Falkland-Islands-by-Wyn-Skyrme.jpg

The Falkland Islands, a remote South Atlantic archipelago, is a British overseas territory. With rugged terrain and cliff-lined coasts, its 778 islands and islets are home to sheep farms and abundant birdlife. The capital, Stanley, sits on East Falkland, the largest island. The city's Falkland Islands Museum has themed galleries devoted to maritime exploration, natural history, the 1982 Falklands War and other subjects.

My goal to deliver HGV training to the staff of the plant and vehicle department and demonstrating best practice on UK legislation and enforcement started by a long but interesting journey. Travelling to the Falkland Islands consists of a split journey flight from Brize Norton RAF Airbase in Oxfordshire, flying out in one of their civilian transport planes known internally as an air tanker. On arrival, a high security checking-in procedure is carried out on all passengers and military staff followed by a flight of around 9 hours to the service base at the Ascension Island down in the South Atlantic. Ascension Island is an isolated volcanic island in the equatorial waters of the South Atlantic Ocean, around 1,600 kilometres (1,000 miles) from the coast of Africa and 2,250 kilometres (1,400 miles) from the coast of Brazil, which is roughly midway between the horn of South America and Africa. From here we flew another 9 hours to Mount Pleasant Airbase on the Falkland Islands. I estimated my total journey travelled around 26 hours.

On arrival I was met by the FIG Workshop Manager, Mr Ralph Harris, who co-ordinates the Government vehicle maintenance and operations on the islands. From there we travelled around 50 km on unmetalled roads in a temperature of minus five degrees celcius with a 30 mph wind (making it feel like minus 20). Speeds on these roads are maximum 40 mph and 25 mph in local areas. The roads have extremely large and frequent potholes which make 40mph feel rather excessive for the conditions. The roads on the island are maintained at Government expense and are constantly being regraded and repaired due to the islands maintenance programme.  This being one of the reasons for being here - to identify maintenance strategies for HGV vehicles used for low mileage in hard and sometimes arduous conditions.

On arrival into Stanley I had an introduction to the FIG workshop staff and environment; a well-established place with all equipment readily available to carry out vehicle maintenance. Due to the remote position of the Island equipment and parts need to be in stock as delivery schedules from the UK to the Island can be time exhaustive.

Vehicles on the island are that of UK specification, although without the complication of current Euro standards generally vehicles that are built for the Middle East countries Euro 3 are ordered, as these have less of the electronics and legislative restrictions we have in the UK. No annual or vehicle testing or form of standards are in place on the islands, as described in the tyre law it is stated that tyres 'must be made of rubber and be of pneumatic inflation!'

The week I was there I trained all nine workshop staff and the workshop closed for the week.  We carried out the full training course from legislation and enforcement within the UK, moving on to vehicle component assessment and defect reporting - updating their knowledge on how and why we have a documented DVSA produced standards manual within the UK. This was a mixture of classroom training and practical sessions working through pre-use checks, personal safety awareness, vehicle familiarisation and safety procedures whilst working in a workshop environment. Training the engineers to UK tandards on the island not only achieves getting the message across about the importance of vehicle maintenance standards, but also it’s about the voices of the world and sharing experiences and knowledge between already knowledgeable candidates. On closer investigation I needed to inspect the key areas of what they really wanted out of the training and diversified my knowledge and advice to educate in these areas. We found from early vehicle inspection that the wear that is abnormal for vehicles that would be used under normal operating conditions was apparent. The constant build-up of mud and snow gets into the operating areas of these vehicles and it is not uncommon for the heavier end of the fleet to have steering components and brakes overhauled and linings changed more frequently than that of trucks that operate in the UK. This was identified and staff were advised that a monitoring process should be implemented and identified on their inspection reporting, It would benefit all staff at an early stage of inspection to identify if a component will become in excess of tolerance before its next inspection.

We finally close the week up with assessment exam papers covering all the context of the training information presented over the week. Then a workshop assessment inspecting the vehicle to the routine presented, finally carrying out a functional brake test in both laden and unladen conditions on their roller brake tester in the workshop, calculating the results and comparing the important parameters that need to be met when carrying out vehicle brake testing.

I feel I have achieved in getting the message across in raising standards and the importance of vehicle inspections to UK standards, to all candidates. Delegates appeared to understand their responsibilities in continuing to move forward and improve the level of standards in all areas for road vehicles used in the Falkland Islands - my job done!

For me? Onwards and upwards back home to South Wales 30 hours later.

Posted: 06/10/2015 11:34:48 by Global Administrator | with 0 comments