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Everyone likes to relax and spend time with loved ones during the Christmas break. But for many in the transport industry, the year isn’t over just yet. Holiday closures are a few days away and between holiday makers, party goers and last-minute shoppers, the roads are busier than usual. ‘Tis the season to focus on driver safety!

Not only are there more cars on the roads, but drivers are often distracted during the holiday period. They may be trying to navigate to unfamiliar places to visit distant relatives, or visit theme parks for the holidays while dealing with cranky children in the backseat. They may even be trying to push through to get their destination instead of pulling over and taking a break. All this makes for erratic vehicle movements that are hard to react to, and even the most seasoned professional driver will find their job more challenging.

To help ensure you and your fleet get through December and January in one piece, not only is it a good time to remind your staff of their Chain of Responsibility obligations, but you need to take holiday driving habits into account. Here are some things to consider.

Changing Traffic Habits

Most of the year, roads operate on a predictable cycle of peak hour traffic times. Between the standard nine to five and school traffic, most of the public is nowhere to be seen, leaving plenty of time to easily plan routes and trips. However, once the holidays start, things change. People are out and about throughout the day or jamming the highways as they head off on vacation. GPS fleet tracking can assist with routes to give drivers an easy way to view alternate directions that can avoid congested areas.  Instead of the stress of trying to figure out a route on the fly, preparing in advance means drivers can factor in the additional time needed to complete jobs too.

Accommodate For The Weather

Just because it’s not a white Christmas in Australia doesn’t mean the weather isn’t something to consider. The northern parts of the country get very wet and humid in summer, leading to slippery roads. The south deals with dry and hot weather that’s prone to high levels of dust. Hot weather itself can just be extremely uncomfortable meaning drivers need to pay extra attention to the conditions of the road and their truck. When the roads heat up, it can degrade tyres and can cause unexpected maintenance costs. Excess dust can damage windows and drivers need to use more washer fluid than usual to maintain visibility. It extreme cases, when temperature reach the 40s, the roads can begin to melt away causing issues with manoeuvrability.

Drivers should think ahead with the weather in mind, steering clear of areas or times of day that could pose treacherous road conditions. The use of electronic pre-trip checklists to make sure coolants and washer fluids are replenished and the truck is roadworthy. Getting into the habit of checking on the weather daily can help ensure you’re prepared for the road conditions ahead!

Don’t Rush!

Time is precious to the average truck driver and the holidays can increase the pressure of meeting the clock. It’s tempting to cut corners, but it’s during this time of year where patience is of upmost importance. On top of busy schedules, particularly in the courier and delivery industry, drivers need to get work done as quickly as possible. This is so they can maximise their income, as many sub-contractors are paid per delivery, rather than an hourly rate. This means jobs get rushed, quality and safety take a back seat, and drivers end up speeding, take sharp turns, don’t wear seatbelts or let engine idle excessively. Good behaviour and on-road practices go out the window. Not only does this cause damage to the vehicle, with a few scratches and dents from speedy getaways between locations, but serious incidents occur as a result. Proper planning can prevent rush jobs from happening. Fleet managers can also use vehicle tracking to keep tabs on driver behaviour and issue real-time alerts for speeding or harsh braking. In-cabin devices also help to cut down on paper work so drivers can save time during deliveries.

Most importantly it’s crucial that drivers and fleet managers regularly check in with each other. The holidays can be a stressful time for many and the rush to get everything done before the Christmas break makes it worse. Communication and thorough planning is the best way to get everything done efficiently, quickly and safely. Tis the season to be jolly so keep your fleet happy by making sure they’re safe and sound during this busy time.

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THE ROAD AHEAD: HOW TO KEEP YOUR DRIVERS SAFE AND YOUR BUSINESS COMPLIANT

Chris L'Ecluse is a Solution Specialist - Enterprise at Teletrac Navman.

Chris L'Ecluse is Solution Specialist at Teletrac Navman and a Work, Health & Safety guardian angel. A qualified Master Driver Trainer, Chris has extensive experience, knowledge and background to educate industries on work, health & safety laws and safe driving behaviour.