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True Grit: Timely Warnings from Highways England

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As all road users know, winter can be a really rough time to drive. Long, dark nights, bad weather and unexpected obstructions combine to cause a lot of potential hazards. And delivery drivers are especially at risk – after all, the general advice to cut back on unnecessary journeys doesn’t really make much difference when driving is your job. For this reason, we’re going to run through some of Highways England’s advice to road users on how to stay safe as the nights draw in and the gritters come out.

Be Prepared

First, and perhaps most obviously, road users should always make sure they keep a winter kit in their vehicle. While things like snow chains might only be necessary if you’ve received a weather warning or are driving through an especially cold area, delivery drivers should always keep the basics like de-icer and an ice scraper. It’s also a good idea to have a stash of blankets, warm clothes and some sunglasses to cope with the cold and low sun.

Be Careful Around Gritters

Gritting plays a crucial role in keeping UK roads usable during the winter months. Without these salt-spreading trucks, we’d all be much more exposed to the dangers of black ice. Still, Highways England has been keen to stress the risk posed by the gritters themselves. Often travelling in motorway middle lanes to ensure an even spread, these hulking monsters weigh up to 26 tonnes and can reach 40mph while spreading salt. Not something you’d want to crash into.

While most on the road give gritters a wide berth and only pass when safe, Highways England’s winter and severe weather team leader Paul Furlong has noted some issues. Some, he says, ‘misjudge the situation and end up colliding’. Similar situations saw 36 gritter trucks involved in collisions in the last year, and Furlong also notes ‘a growing problem with drivers using the hard shoulder to undertake gritters, risking a collision with stationary vehicles’.

It is crucial to remain aware that gritters will be on the road and to only attempt to overtake them when safe - especially as delivery drivers are far more likely to be out later, when many gritters come out.

Know what to do in Extreme Weather

Although the UK is pretty mild during summer and spring, many parts of it experience severe conditions in the winter months. Accordingly, it’s worth reminding yourself of some top tips on what to do if the weather goes bad on you.

If you get caught in fog, switch to your fog lights and avoid using full beam, as these can reflect off the fog and blind you or other drivers.

If you’re out in high wind, consider recalibrating your route to avoid exposed sections of road. Even then, it’s best to slow down and take things easy.

Finally, if you’re dealing with heavy rain or standing water, keep a good few metres from the car in front and be aware of factors like stopping distance. Ease off the accelerator if you find yourself aquaplaning, and let yourself slow down gently until steering becomes responsive again.

Remember that after all this advice there’s no shame in simply stopping your journey if conditions get too bad. Even delivery drivers should never be expected to put themselves in danger.

We hope all this information has proved useful, and that it’s reminded you of how to deal with the hazards of winter driving.
About author: Desiree Michels

Norman Dulwich is a correspondent for Courier Exchange, the world's largest neutral trading hub for logistics managers and delivery drivers to trade same day delivery work in the express freight exchange industry. Over 5,400 member companies are networked together through the Exchange to fill empty capacity, get new clients and form long-lasting business relationships.

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