The Christmas delivery rush, coupled with the arrival of winter storms, means that the festive period can be a challenging time for the road haulage sector.
As such one of the biggest costs facing haulage businesses is vehicle breakdowns – highlighted in research by RAC Truck Rescue which found that 31% of fleet operators struggle with reliability issues.
The RAC has successfully carried out repairs on trucks and HGVs for more than 30 years, and annually deals with about 100,000 truck breakdowns, presenting a range of problems from electrical faults to brake chambers and suzie leads. December and January typically see a spike in roadside recoveries as driving conditions become more challenging.
Ignoring reliability issues at this time of year can mean costly roadside rescues, disrupted deliveries and damaged customer confidence. So it makes business sense for hauliers to make sure their fleets are in the best possible condition to cope with the onset of winter conditions.
Of course, basic maintenance checks for obvious faults like tyres, windscreen wipers and lights will be identified by drivers in their daily walk around checks and government figures on roadworthiness indicate that on the whole, there are more vehicles in better condition on the roads.
But whether your drivers are inspected or not, there are some tips that all hauliers can follow to help minimise downtime over the busy festive period:
- Check your headlights
Electrical faults were one of the top reasons the RAC was called to help HGVs last year and lights were responsible for a third of these issues. Checking headlights is something that drivers are required to do every day but it’s worth remembering that if both bulbs blow the driver will have to stop immediately to stay legal. Vibrations caused by driving can take their toll on bulbs so we recommend proactively changing your bulbs on every fourth service. It’s a cheap, preventative fix that could save hours of downtime.
- Preserve your batteries over Christmas
One of RAC Truck Rescue’s busiest periods is the first week back in January after vehicles have been left idle over the Christmas break. All it can take is an interior light left on by mistake and you’ll soon have a flat battery and a truck that needs jump starting. Spending 10 minutes walking around the vehicle while it’s still in the yard before you head off to make sure no lights have been accidently left on, it could reap rewards in the new year when everyone is back to work again.
- Watch for snow and ice
December looks set to be colder than usual this year and with the potential for snow in January and February, drivers should take extra care in dangerous conditions and be mindful of following ‘sat navs’ into perilous roads. If the worst happens and you get bogged down, carrying a shovel and some salt can help get you out of a tight spot. It’s also important to remember that braking distances are greatly increased in wet, snowy and icy conditions, which is potentially even worse if ABS/EBS systems aren’t functioning correctly. Furthermore, at speeds under 10mph the ABS/EBS will have no effect at all, which means vehicles can still skid even with these safety systems.
- Keep your trucks topped up
Check on all fluid levels on a regular basis. Make sure that water, brake fluid, oil and anti-freeze are at the correct levels at least once a month during the winter period. Ensure that washer fluid has proper screen-wash in the mix, as it has an anti-freeze agent in to reduce the risk of washer tanks and pipes being frozen. In previous years, before more advanced computer-based vehicle management, one of the most common breakdowns at this time of year was caused by water in air brake pipe systems freezing. Despite these more effective systems it is still a good idea for drivers to drain their air tanks in case any moisture has got past the air dryer, and if it has, it could be a good indication that the canister is due for replacement.
- Spread the cost of recovery
Instead of paying for each individual breakdown and risk unknown costs under the Pay–On-Use model, RAC Truck Rescue customers can now pay on an annual or monthly set-fee subscription basis, which includes up to four breakdowns a year.