The colder months are often one of the busiest – and most financially rewarding – times in a professional driver's year. The higher volume of courier jobs during the festive season invariably means spending more time on the road and making more money, but the combination of chaotic traffic and inclement weather also increases the risk of accidents. Due to an upsurge in online shopping around this time, it also means that many courier jobs take drivers to residential addresses, rather than to a depot, which results in a marked increase in mileage.
Because driving in winter can be very economically fruitful, but calls for long hours and challenging weather conditions, it's a pertinent time to review some safe driving techniques.
Before Setting Off
At the beginning of winter, it’s vital to check wiper blades, tyres, oil, anti-freeze, belts and alternators. Every day before you start your courier jobs, you should also include the following checks on your daily "walk around".
1. Make sure that your fuel tank is at least half full, so if you encounter diversions, you'll never be driving on the fly. You should also download a fuel station app so that you always know where the nearest fuel stop is.
2. Check that all mirrors, windows, lights and back and front windscreens are de-iced and cleared of snow. In addition, you should check the rest of the vehicle for large deposits of snow residue that could obstruct your vision.
3. Before you get in the van, make it a habit to wipe your feet, which will prevent any inadvertent slipping on pedals.
Stay Safe While Driving
While all of the normal laws and on-road etiquette apply, there is most definitely a need for extra care when driving in winter. Expect the unexpected and prepare for it!
Mind the gap: The safe braking distance doubles in wet conditions, and is up to ten times farther away when snow and ice are a factor. But leaving more space between you and the vehicle in front also allows you to easily drive around them if they get stuck.
Foggy conditions: When you encounter fog, make sure that you turn on your fog lights and maintain a steady speed. Some drivers tend to speed up and slow down in patchy fog, which can easily result in accidents. In addition, remember to switch off your fog lights when you’re not using them.
Snow and ice: Slow and steady is the order of the day, and you need to be on high alert in unpredictable snowy and icy conditions. One tip is to start off in second gear, which reduces wheel spin. Avoid sudden braking and acceleration, and if you do get stuck in the snow, use your diff lock (if available) or alternate between reverse and acceleration, which will help you gain enough traction to extricate your wheels.
Flooded roads: Drive through flooded patches slowly and in a low gear – and don’t stop. If you begin to aquaplane, remove your feet from the brake and accelerator and grip the steering wheel tightly, without trying to steer. In other words, just go with it.
Essentials for Your Van
There are also some very handy items that you should consider purchasing and keeping in your vehicle during winter.
Along with a high-vis vest and a hazard sign, invest in some snow boots and a thermal hat and gloves in case of breakdowns. You might also want to add a blanket and an extra change of clothes to this kit.
Keep a supply of bottled water and non-perishable food items tucked away for emergencies, along with jumper leads, a first aid kit, a torch (and spare batteries), a snow shovel, a de-icer and a scraper.
Stay Safe During Winter Courier Jobs
No matter how experienced you are, remember to take extra care in winter. Making preparations for any eventuality will give you the presence and peace of mind to keep you safe on the road this winter.
Norman Dulwich is a correspondent for Courier Exchange, the world's largest neutral trading hub for same day courier jobs in the express freight exchange industry. Over 4,500 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.