Driving in snow and ice

Here's our advice to operators and drivers for dealing with snow and ice.

Before the winter months

  • Check the electrical connections are secure and operational, including the battery charging systems, as starting in cold weather makes the battery work harder. Additionally, check the alternator to ensure it can charge at the correct rate when operating under full load and equipment switched on.

  • Inspect the condition of the radiator, hoses and thermostat to ensure that it is operational as required. Ensure that antifreeze is topped up as per manufacturer guidelines and windscreen fluids are topped up to ensure it does not freeze in low temperatures.

  • Ensure that any other engine fluids are checked and topped up as necessary, including power train and gearbox oils, replacing any filters if required.

Check the conditions

  • Make sure you keep up to date with changing weather conditions and road closures (see traffic alerts).
  • Where weather conditions are expected to be severe, consider discussing delivery expectations with customers and proritising deliveries.

Make sure your drivers are prepared

  • You can help ensure your drivers are prepared with our safety tips for driving in snow and ice.
  • Take a look at shop.logistics.org.uk's winter vehicle kit plus other winter-related driving products.
  • Find information in the Logistics UK drivers’ handbooks.
  • Consider including training in safe driving techniques as part of driver CPC training delivery in the future.

Get a grip – look at your options for improving traction and grip

  • Consider introducing a temporary minimum tread depth of 5mm for the duration of the adverse weather.
  • Consider the use of winter tyres if you operate in areas commonly affected by snowfall and icy roads. The order of fitment priority is: firstly to drive axles, followed by steered axles and then to remaining axles (such as lift and trailer axles).
  • For periods of prolonged and heavy snow fall, consider the use of snow chains or snow socks. Remember, however, that use of snow chains in the wrong conditions will damage both the tyre and the road surface (for which you will be liable). Always follow manufacturers’ instructions.

HGV driving safety tips for snow and ice

Here's some advice for driving in snow and icy conditions.

  • Allow more time for your journey.
  • Obtain weather information before you set off and keep up to date with changing conditions and closed routes via the radio or by regularly calling into base (you can also see the traffic alerts section).
  • In snowy or freezing conditions, carry in the cab: a shovel; a couple of strong sacks (to put under the drive wheels if the vehicle becomes stuck); warm clothes and a blanket; a torch, food and a warm drink in a flask; a road atlas; a mobile phone and charger; and sunglasses (the glare from snow can be dazzling).
  • Ensure the whole of your vehicle (especially your windscreen and mirrors) is cleared of ice and snow before attempting to move off.
  • Lower your speed and keep a good distance from other vehicles – allow ten times the normal stopping distances on icy roads.
  • Allow for the fact other drivers may get into difficulties.
  • All braking must be gentle and over much longer distances, especially when driving articulated vehicles or those with a trailer attached.
  • Avoid any sudden braking, steering or acceleration.
  • Falling snow can reduce visibility dramatically, use dipped headlights and reduce your speed.
  • Road markings and traffic signs can be obscured by snow. Take extra care at junctions.
  • In prolonged periods of snow, the fixing of snow chains or snow socks to driven wheels can prove to be of value.
  • Don’t attempt to overtake a snow plough or vehicle spreading salt, unless you are sure the road is clear and the conditions allow it to be done safely.
  • When driving at night, be alert for a drop in temperature. If the steering feels light, you may be driving on ice, so ease your speed as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • If your vehicle becomes stuck in deep snow, engage the diff-lock (if one is fitted) to regain forward traction – but remember to switch it off as soon as the vehicle is moving and before attempting a turn. Alternatively, use the highest gear you can to improve traction. Then try alternating between reverse and the forward gear until forward motion is possible. Avoid continual revving in a low gear, which could lead to the drive wheel digging a deeper rut.
  • When operating independent retarders, take care when going downhill in snow. The retarders could cause the rear wheels to lock, although some retarders are managed by ABS to help avoid this problem.

More driving tips

Rules 226 - 237 of the Highway Code contain more information on driving in adverse weather conditions, but our driving advice for the following conditions can be found below:

National Highways - Driving in Severe Weather

Transport Scotland - Driving in Bad Weather

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