Just as Staycations became a popular travel trend in 2008 as a reaction to high gasoline prices, a popular travel trend today—in reaction to the lowest gasoline prices in five years—is getting the heck out of Dodge. Not by planes and trains, but by automobile.
Yes, Americans are increasingly taking advantage of low gasoline prices and choosing to take the scenic route to reach their holiday travel destinations. According to AAA, this past Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Year-End Holiday season (December 23-January 4) more travelers hit the highway than in the same period for the previous year. Actually, in near record numbers more.
With Labor Day—one of the busiest travel weekends of the year—on deck, one can assume that Labor Day 2016 will follow the trend. So expect to see an uptick in road travelers that will top the 2015 numbers of nearly 36 million. Ugh.
Holiday Travel Is No Holiday for Fleets
More cars on the road over holiday periods means frustrating and time-consuming traffic jams, more accidents, hot-headed drivers and over-heated engines.
For fleet managers it also means ensuring your goods and services are delivered on time and as promised, as your fleet is hardly on holiday. For you and your drivers, holidays are business as usual with deadlines to meet, but with a few more obstacles in the way.
But all is not lost. There are simple steps you can take to soothe the inevitable holiday travel headaches and in doing so, you’ll help keep your drivers, your customers and yourself cool, calm and collected.
Let’s take at look at how….
Keep Vehicles Properly Maintained
You can’t do anything about other vehicles barreling down the road on bald tires, but you surely can keep your vehicles in tip-top condition. To avoid stranded drivers or breakdowns, pay attention to vehicle maintenance. Routinely check tire tread, brakes, belts, fluids and hoses and before a holiday weekend, check them again.
Ensure that windshield wipers are in good working condition and that drivers have jumper cables, a spare tire and an emergency kit on board. Test the air conditioner and/or heater to make sure it is working properly—nothing like your drivers stuck in a Labor Day or Thanksgiving “parking lot” with no AC or heat to make a bad situation even worse.
Plan Alternate Routes
Congested routes and road construction mean longer travel times, more fuel consumption and an increased chance that deliveries might not make it on time. With your customers dependent on you—and you dependent on your customers—it’s a good idea to prepare your drivers with alternate routes in advance to help assure deliveries arrive on schedule.
Check traffic patterns and traffic updates frequently and change routes and route times accordingly. If you don’t have a telematics solution in place, you might want to talk with your fuel supplier to see if one would be helpful to your fleet, in terms of route efficiency, fuel efficiency and a host of other benefits.
Back Off and Don’t Cut In
In stop and go traffic, hitting the brakes when hauling a heavy load or any load for that matter, is going to take longer. Stress to your drivers the importance of keeping a safe following distance and sticking to it. It is one of the easiest defensive driving rules and unfortunately, also one that is the most often broken.
Not cutting in front of large trucks should also be emphasized, especially considering that a fully loaded tractor trailer traveling at highway speeds takes the length of a football field—including both end zones—to come to a complete stop.
Eyes on the Road. Mind on the Task.
Distracted driving is a leading cause of accidents. Look away for as little as two seconds and you’ve doubled the chance of being involved in one. Stress to your drivers the importance of focusing on the task at hand, rather than their cell phone, radio or electronic devices and if practical, limit what devices they are allowed to carry, make it a rule, and enforce it.
Should your drivers come upon a situation where they notice other drivers texting or generally not paying attention to the road, tell them to move away immediately to avoid an accident waiting to happen.
It’s easy to let negative feelings take over if your drivers are stuck in a traffic jam or in another less than desirable situation that threatens on-time delivery. Both you and your drivers need to focus on the positive with a “we’ll get through this” attitude. Positive thoughts can’t make traffic disappear, but they sure can make holiday travel seem less of a hassle and somewhat more of a well—holiday.