Winter Driving Safety Planning
Winter driving safety requires advanced planning by employers. You need to prepare drivers and vehicles, plan and monitor safe travel, and review your results to look for improvements. Use our resources to take action before, during, and after winter.
Start preparing about 2 to 3 months before winter conditions normally arrive. Waiting until snow or rain hits is too late.
Review policies and procedures with employees. Make sure your guidelines cover everyone who drives for work — full time and part time workers, and those who only drive for work occasionally. Also, make sure your guidelines cover all vehicles — company-owned as well as personal vehicles that employees use on the job.
Assigning drivers in winter requires a different approach than at other times of the year. The safest trip is one that never happens. So review the driving employees typically do during the winter. Is it all essential? Can you use technology or adjust schedules to reduce the need for driving?
Vehicles should be winter-ready before the snow falls, rains start, or temperatures drop. Look at the last few years to see when winter conditions usually hit your area. Create a schedule to winterize vehicles 3 to 4 weeks before this date.
This also applies if your employees are using their own vehicles for work. You need to ensure that employee vehicles meet the same requirements as company vehicles when driven for work.
Winterizing begins with installing 4 matching winter tires. We recommend tires with the 3-peaked mountain/snowflake symbol. By law, tires need to have at least 3.5 mm of tread. Learn more about choosing winter tires.
Here are some other basic recommendations for winterizing a vehicle:
- Check the battery, brakes, cooling and heating systems, electrical and exhaust system, and belts and hoses to ensure they’re in good working order.
- Top up cooling fluid, oil levels, and windshield cleaning fluid.
- Equip it with tire chains or traction devices in good condition.
- Equip it with an emergency kit.
- Use winter windshield wiper blades.
It’s never too early to discuss winter driving safety. You can do several things to help drivers feel more prepared:
- Review winter driving tips with them, including driving for the conditions
- Include winter road safety topics in staff meetings
- Review and complete our winter driving hazards form (PDF 571 KB) with them
- Having them demonstrate your safety procedures to prove they understand them
- Teach them how and when to install tire chains, if needed
- Ensure they have completed training, and schedule more if needed
- Require them to do trip planning
Setting road safety goals gives you a way to measure your progress. When it comes to winter driving, the main goal is to reduce the number of injuries, near-misses, and crashes in your organization.
You can also consider setting goals for the number and frequency of winter-related vehicle inspections, training sessions, and safety messages you share with your drivers.
Once winter hits, you need to monitor and supervise drivers to ensure they’re following their training and your procedures.
Use journey management and trip planning to look for alternatives to driving, because the safest trip is one that never happens. Can employees do the work over the phone on a video call? If not, and the weather and road conditions are poor, can the trip be rescheduled?
It’s not always possible to avoid driving. In those cases, work with the driver to create a trip plan, including assessing driving hazards and road and weather conditions. Together, review safe driving and emergency procedures. Build extra time into their schedule to allow them to safely complete their drive.
Before drivers get behind the wheel, require them to do a pre-trip inspection and record the results. Have them confirm that the vehicle is suitable for the road and weather conditions. Also ensure that the vehicle has the required safety equipment. Apply the same requirements to drivers who use their personal vehicle for work. Supervise vehicle inspections and do spot checks.
No matter how experienced your drivers are, they always benefit from reminders about winter driving safety. They’ll also be more likely to take ownership of it if you ask for their feedback and suggestions. Ask about any near-misses they’ve had or new hazards they’ve faced. Ask what challenges they’re having complying with your policy and procedures.
If they’re driving an unfamiliar vehicle or a new route, make sure they have the proper training. You may need to provide a refresher course. Make sure winter driving is covered in your orientation for new and young employees.
It’s also your responsibility to make sure drivers know their rights and responsibilities, including the right to refuse unsafe work.
If driving can’t be avoided, ensure you and your drivers evaluate current and projected weather and road conditions and review routes and schedules accordingly. Identify the safest routes and use them. Schedule trips at the safest times of day. If possible, avoid early mornings and late afternoons and evenings as road conditions and visibility can be poor at those times.
Your procedures for winter trip planning could include delaying the trip, modifying routes, planning for emergencies, and increasing the frequency of check-ins when driving risks are high. They may also include adjusting driving assignments to meet hours of service requirements.
Winter safe driving planning doesn’t end when the weather improves. This is the time for you to review, strengthen, and improve your policies and procedures for next year.
- What worked and what didn’t?
- Are there new hazards you need to plan for?
- Did your drivers have appropriate tires, equipment, and emergency kits?
- Did you do any near-miss or crash investigations that recommended changes in your procedures?
- How did your crash and injury statistics compare with previous years?
If you see an opportunity to improve your winter road safety plan, commit to it and set a target date for completion. Aim to have it in place well before the next winter driving season.
Here are some other steps you can take:
- Identify employees who need more training, and set a schedule for training.
- Schedule post-winter maintenance on all vehicles used for work, including ones owned by employees.
- Explore options for reducing the need for driving next season.
- Identify road safety champions among your staff who may take a leadership role in your efforts.
Some ideas for improvement may require a financial investment. This could include anything from installing new tires, to training, to communication tools such as guides for drivers.
Include these items in the coming year’s budget to ensure the money will be available when needed. If you’re a supervisor and need approval from your employer, review the benefits of road safety planning to help you make your case.
Use our Winter Driving Safety Planning Calendar (PDF 541 KB) to help keep your organization on track.