Ten top tips to keep HGV drivers and their loads safe this winter

Ten top tips to keep HGV drivers and their loads safe this winter

Temperatures are expected to drop significantly next weekend as the first winter weather systems move in across the UK. Haulage insurance expert Gauntlet has issued some essential safety advice to try to keep more HGV drivers and their loads safe. It has adopted a ‘Load Safety Equals Road Safety’ slogan, to encourage HGV operators to remember that added pressures are applied to load management when the weather is wet and the roads potentially icy or bearing snow. 
 
Gauntlet has a top 10 tips to help steer lorry and van operators through the winter, without the legal and insurance implications that can result if a load is spilled, or risky and negligent behaviour is witnessed in and around the vehicle. 
 
1. Pay added attention to braking impacts
 
Those loading HGVs should always remember that the weight of a load alone should not be used as a guide as to whether it will shift in transit or not. More force is required to secure a load when moving than is required when the load is stationary. The combined strength of the load restraint system must be sufficient to withstand a forward force no lower than the total weight of the load, so that severe braking will not throw the load forward. The system must also be able to withstand a sideways and backwards force of no lower than half the weight of the load. This is a year-round guidance and the strengths advised are minimums. In winter weather, increase the load restraint system’s capacities, as severe breaking or accident impacts will create greater forces and strains on the restraints.
 
2. Get your anchorage right
 
Winter weather creates challenging driving conditions so get your anchorage capacity right. The sum of the capacity of the anchorage points on both sides of the vehicle, if evenly distributed, should not be lower than the vehicle’s maximum rated load. For example, a three-tonne-rated lorry should have at least three anchorage points on each side, with each of these having a capacity of 0.5 tonnes.
 
3. Take care on the load bed
 
If you have to climb on to the load-bed, perhaps to try to deal with a collapsed load, take great care.  Aluminium, in particular, can become extremely slippery in wet weather and there is also the increased risk of falling from the load-bed, as you work.  If you are working from height on the floor or flatbed, or even when getting out of the cab, check that you are not jumping down on to black ice, or an oil spillage that could lead you to slide and slip.
 
4. Watch out for wet tarpaulins
 
Trying to handle tarpaulins in windy and wet weather can be a huge hassle. Do not let that prevent you from covering and securing the tarpaulin safely however, without gaps and flaps that could distract other road users. If that entails climbing on to a flatbed, be extremely careful as you handle the tarps and also take care when negotiating the four-foot drop to the ground. Many broken legs, shoulders, and worse, have resulted in such situations. Also remember that tarpaulin is only a weather protection measure. You should not view it as part of the load restraint system.
 
5. Manage wet ropes correctly
 
Sisal and manila ropes can have their strength reduced by severe wet weather, so monitor them carefully. Any wet ropes should always be allowed to fully dry out in a natural way.
 
6. Check tensions
 
Weather conditions can affect the tensions of lashings. Drivers should remember it is their responsibility to keep checking on the safety of the load and make tension monitoring part of that process.
 
7. Beware of plastics
 
Plastic drums, kegs, boxes and bottles can all become slippery when damp, so take particular care when handling any load comprising plastic receptacles of this kind. Loading, securing and sheeting should all be done with caution.
 
8. Watch out for changed routes
 
If snow blockages create diversions, and you are carrying a high load, be very mindful of any height restrictions you may encounter and any cross-winds that may affect certain routes. Several hundred lorries per year hit bridges and other structures and many are caught out by severe or gale-force winds. You should have, by law, the maximum travelling height of your vehicle displayed in a place that is clearly visible to you within your cab. Make sure you check this out as you travel on what could be unexpected and unfamiliar routes and watch out for any windsock warning signs.
 
9. Prepare for wilder sea conditions
 
If taking your load on a ferry, remember that winter weather can bring wilder seas and lorry loads are susceptible to the rolling and pitching of the vessel.  The restraints you use on the road may not be up to the job when you are at sea, so prepare for this and increase the number of restraints if necessary. Ensure you have strong and adequate lashing points, so the vehicle can be secured to the vessel with chains, and make sure crew members would be able to access them, if necessary. Ferry operators typically advise eight lashing rings for a 30-tonne lorry, but check their advice before leaving the depot and prepare accordingly.
 
10. Remember your flexible hours allowance
 
The Beast from the East served as a reminder that HGV drivers are allowed some flexibility with their driving hours, should the weather be sufficiently bad to warrant emergency measures. As part of the ethos of being responsible for their load, an HGV driver can use their judgement to get to a place of safety where they can park up securely and not endanger others, even if that means exceeding the usual driver-hour regulations. This special dispensation is for emergencies only, typically in severe snow, and the driver should state the reasons for exceeding their hours on the back of their tachograph charts or printouts, on arrival at their chosen safe destination or rest area, at the very latest.
 
Gauntlet advises HGV drivers to understand their load and its restraining mechanisms prior to departure and to plan trips on the basis of reduced speeds, if winter weather is bad. 
 
To discuss health and safety training that can help with key areas of risk management in and around haulage operations, or to get a quote for your insurance, call Gauntlet on 0113 244 8686 or visit www.gauntlethaulageinsurance.com