Winter is here and with it the possibility of weather conditions that can make driving much more dangerous than usual. With driver safety the number one concern for fleets, it’s important to have a best practices action plan in place for winter driving and for preparing vehicles for any potential adverse conditions.
Take a look at these winter driving statistics from 2021:
- Icy roads alone caused 156,164 crashes
- About 17% of all vehicle crashes occurred in snowy conditions
- Around 135,000 injuries and 2,000 fatalities occurred from driving in snowy conditions
A fatality, crash or a driver stranded on the side of the road can be devastating to a fleet’s bottom line. One way to help avoid any of these scenarios is by not overlooking one of the most important safety components of a vehicle in your vehicle preparedness action plan — its tires.
Tires: Your Reputation Is Riding on Them
Prepping tires for winter should be a top priority in your vehicle preparedness action plan. Tires are the foundation of vehicle safety. They withstand numerous weather conditions, support the weight of the vehicle, withstand impacts and are the vehicle’s only connection to the road.
While the latest safety features and technologies often get all the attention and can help your fleet vehicles run smoothly and safely throughout winter, if tires are not in tip-top shape, even the best-of-the-best safety features and technologies are of little help.
To that end, let’s take a look at five tips to help keep your vehicles’ tires — and drivers — safely connected to the roads they travel no matter the conditions.
1. Keep Tires Properly Inflated
Colder temperatures make it more difficult to ensure proper tire pressure since pressure decreases 2-3 PSI for every 10-degree Fahrenheit drop in temperature. For greater accuracy, check tire pressure first thing in the morning, or after tires have not been in operation for several hours.
The optimal PSI level of a tire varies by vehicle and manufacturer. However, in winter you should aim for 30 to 35 PSI to ensure smooth operation and also lessen the likelihood of tires getting stuck or causing hydroplaning. Plus, proper PSI gives you better gas mileage and extends tire life.
2. Keep an Eye on the Tread
Low tread not only increases fuel use, it increases the risk of hydroplaning on wet roads. In winter, road surfaces are likely to change quickly and without warning — from ice to sleet to slush — making driving with low tread especially dangerous.
Help keep your drivers and motorists safe by providing drivers with a tread-depth gauge tool to keep in their vehicle. To get the most accurate reading, tread depth should be checked in several spots on each tire. Generally, commercial trucks have a tread depth of around 10/32”. When the depth gets down to 4/32”, the tire should be replaced.
3. Ensure Tires are Properly Balanced
Improperly aligned and out-of-balance tires wear unevenly, which reduces the life of the tire and most importantly makes driving on ice or snow-covered roads particularly dangerous. The resulting excessive vibration, tires spinning with a wobble and steering difficulty can cause the vehicle to careen out of control, putting your driver and motorists in danger.
4. Check the Inner Tires
On-dual wheel vehicles, the tires on the inside are often overlooked. Checking tire pressure and tread on inner tires is challenging, but the key to safety. Measure tread wear and ensure that each tire on an axle is at the same pressure. If one tire is less inflated than the other, excess friction is created on that tire causing more wear and tear and shorter tire life.
5. Train Drivers
What drivers don’t know can definitely hurt you. Only 17% of drivers know how to properly check tire pressure and 50% don’t know the proper tire inflation for their vehicle. Considering that 21% of vehicle defect accidents are due to improper tire pressure and 50% of emergency roadside calls are tire-related, ensuring drivers are properly trained on tire maintenance and inspection is vital to your bottom line and reputation.
So are your tires ready to safely roll?