Winter is upon us - what drivers need to know
The Christmas season, which can be both hectic and relaxing, is behind us, and the new year is here. For most of us, winter only really gets started when we see that first snowfall: in the Alps that can be as early as the beginning of December, so it’s no wonder that we see some beautiful photos of winter landscapes from that region. But of course there are pros and cons: while some people are getting excited about winter sports and snowball fights, others are dealing with chaos on the roads.
For those of use who have to leave home early in the morning to get to work, snow can spell disaster: everything from snow glare, icy roads, foggy windscreens, snow or even ice on the roof of the car can make getting started a hassle. And beware! In Germany, driving with snow and ice piled up on the roof, or with just a small clear patch of windscreen can quickly get expensive: you could suddenly find yourself spending up to €120 of your Christmas bonus on fines. And this applies to all drivers, not just those in trucks or taxis! Letting the motor run to warm up the car is also a fineable offence.
The following post provides some tips and tricks for surviving wintry weather and ensuring you can spend that Christmas bonus on things that make you happy.
Are you using the right tyres? Then you’re good to go!
There’s no question that winter tyres are essential in the colder months. Particularly in areas with lots of snow. Just like regular tyres, it’s important to regularly check the tread depth and tyre pressure. Experts recommend a tyre with good traction and a tread depth of at least 4 mm. If the tyre pressure is too high or too low, your tyres will wear out much faster, particularly when dealing with bad weather. Not only that, incorrect pressure can increase the stopping distance of your car on a slippery road. It’s also important to check whether you are required to use winter tyres, and whether the requirement applies to all four tyres or only those on the drive shaft. In Germany, as of last year, buses and class N2 and N3 vehicles can only legally drive in wintry conditions if all four tyres are winter tyres. Other countries have different rules, and may apply fines of up to €5,000 or suspend a driver’s license if they are driving with the wrong tyres.
Snow chains are another winter accessory for tyres, although they are only used rarely. If you plan to use snow chains, it’s a good idea to practice fitting them regularly, so you aren’t stuck in the cold trying to figure out how to get them on.
Everything sealed? Let's go!
It is essential that you check the seals on your vehicle before driving. Are they in working order? Then you are good to go. In winter, the materials used for sealing a vehicle are under more stress than in summer, both because of the temperature and weather and because of mud, water and salt on the roads. Seals can become porous. And unsealed areas are vulnerable to rust and could even cause a short circuit. While you are checking the seals, it’s a good idea to also check the brake lines and, if you drive a vehicle with air brakes, make sure that there is enough anti-freeze in the brake lines. If there isn’t, water could get into the brake lines and freeze, with deadly consequences. If this happens, stop driving and have your vehicle repaired by a professional immediately. It is also very important to proactively operate the air compression chamber drain valves to ensure they do not freeze.
Prepared for the worst? Time to go!
It’s a good idea to pack a blanket in case your vehicle breaks down or you get stuck due to road closures. And if more than one person will be in the vehicle, consider packing enough blankets for everyone. Sometimes it can take a few hours before you can get going again, or the German Red Cross comes by to help. So it’s a good idea to pack more food than you think you will need, as well as a thermos flask containing a hot drink of your choice. If you feel unwell or have a cold, you can read our tips on how to deal with Illness on the Road.
Batteries charged? Enjoy your trip!
Batteries are less effective in winter. Not just 10 or 15% less effective, 30 to 35% less effective! So make sure you check your battery before winter begins and exchange it if necessary. Your battery works harder in winter, as the electrical load is higher and the starter requires more energy. And of course checking your lights regularly is important at any time of year: you want to see and be seen!
Ice on the roof? Clear it off before you drive!
Of course, the best solution is to park near a location that has professional equipment available for removing snow and ice from the trailer. Unfortunately, this is rarely practical. Instead, consider parking on a slight slope, so that water will roll off the top of the truck. In the best case scenario, vehicles and trailers are equipped with a RoofSafetyAirBag. The system must be turned on before the water freezes. Please never climb onto the top of the truck to remove ice without appropriate safety equipment! It is also important, when removing ice sheets, to ensure that no other vehicles or people are close enough to be hurt or damaged by falling ice. If the trailer is empty, you could try to push up on the roof from inside to get rid of the ice. If you are driving a regular car, a broom is a great solution. If you decide to drive with ice or snow on the roof, resulting in an accident, you could be fined up to €120.
If you encounter accidents or are unable to take the route you had planned on due to weather, construction or accidents, you can use TIMOCOM’s routes & costs application to find a new route.
Not a Smart Logistics System user yet? Apply now to test the System without obligations.
One last tip for winter, so that you don’t get an unpleasant surprise when summer rolls around: every once in a while, turn on the air conditioning and make sure it works.
We hope your winter is safe and comfortable!