How to prepare for winter as a courier van driver

Autumn may be in full swing but winter is well on its way. And while there’s a lot to love about the coldest season of the year – crisp walks, cosy pubs and festivities, to name a few – winter does also pose some challenges courier drivers need to prepare for.
Winter brings snow, sleet, ice, rain and sub-zero temperatures, all of which can make driving more difficult.

If you’re a courier, then you’ll regularly find yourself up against these conditions during the colder months. Preparation is key to keeping safe.
First things first: does your courier insurance provide the right level of protection for you, your van and business?

The Insurance Factory specialises in courier insurance and we can create a tailored policy that matches your unique business needs, as well as your budget.
We understand that your courier van is more than just a vehicle – it’s an invaluable business asset and vital in keeping your business afloat.

The courier insurance we arrange could help to get you back on the road as quickly as possible following an incident beyond your control, guaranteeing minimum disruption to your business.

How can you prepare your van for winter?

Before winter fully sets in, there are several things you need to do to prepare your courier van for driving in poor weather.
  • Get a professional to test that your battery is in good condition. Turning the heating down once your van is warmed up and only switching on your van’s lights, wipers and heaters when the engine is on will help to prolong battery life.
  • Test tyre pressures at least every two weeks during the winter (the correct pressure can be found in your user’s manual). Test tyre treads, too – while the legal limit is 1.6mm, KwikFit explains you should aim for at least 3mm.
  • If you deliver in an area with notoriously poor winter weather, consider switching to winter tyres during the colder months. These tyres are made using a different rubber compound, so they perform better in lower temperatures.
  • Regularly check that all of your van lights are working – including your headlights, brake and reverse lights, and indicators.
  • You need your wipers to be in tip-top condition during winter – if they squeak or leave smears on your windscreen, these are sure-fire signs that they need replacing.
  • Check that you have the right level of engine coolant and antifreeze.
 A snow covered road surrounded by tall trees as dawn

Your essential safety kit

As well as carrying out essential van checks, it’s a good idea to pack a ‘survival kit’ just in case you were to break down or get stuck somewhere – both of which are more likely to happen during the winter months.

This kit should include:
  • Ice scraper and de-icer
  • Jump leads
  • Tow rope
  • Shovel
  • Torch (with batteries that work)
  • Some snacks and water
  • A blanket and/or a spare jacket
  • A fully-charged mobile phone
  • First aid kit
  • Boots/wellies

Top tip: don’t rush!

One of the best ways you can help to keep yourself safe on the roads during winter is to slow down.

Give yourself plenty of time to carry out essential checks on your van each morning and plan your day’s delivery route (and ideally an alternative route, just in case your first choice is blocked).

Rushing can lead to erratic driving and poor decision-making, which can be especially dangerous when driving in bad weather.

Driving in snow or ice

A road through a woodland area covered in snowIf you find yourself delivering in snowy or icy conditions, then you’ll need to adapt your driving style accordingly.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidentals (RoSPA) has shared some tips to help you stay safe behind the wheel – here’s a recap:

Slow and steady wins the race

Driving in snow or on ice increases stopping distances significantly, as well as the risk of skidding. So, kill your speed – remember that speed limits are limits and not targets, and are usually too fast when driving in adverse conditions.
Make sure you increase the distance between your van and the vehicle in front. Depending on the conditions, RoSPA says that you might need up to ten times the usual distance for braking.
As well as driving slower, drive steadier.

This involves avoiding harsh acceleration and braking, as well as sharp or sudden steering. Make sure you slow down in plenty of time when approaching corners and bends, too.

Gently does it on the brakes

Braking on a snow or ice-covered bend can be very dangerous. This is because the centrifugal force will continue to pull you outwards and the wheels won’t grip very well, which could cause your van to spin.
A more effective way to slow down when driving on ice or snow is to take your foot off of the accelerator, letting the speed drop to a level where you can select a lower gear.

If you must use the brakes, then press on the pedal very gently and depress the clutch early to avoid stalling the engine.

Watch out for isolated patches of frost or ice

Bear in mind that just because one section of a road looks free from frost or ice, it doesn’t mean the entire stretch of road will be.

In fact, it’s very common for a road to have isolated patches of frost or ice after the majority of the road has thawed – this usually occurs under bridges, for example.

Stuck in the snow

If your van gets stuck in the snow, don’t think that revving your engine will help get you out – it will do the opposite!

Instead, slowly move the van backwards and forwards out of the rut, selecting the highest gear possible.

If this proves unsuccessful, you might need to get your shovel out from the van or ask a friendly passer-by to give you a hand.
Hopefully, these tips will help you to stay safe when you’re out delivering goods this winter.

Now you can protect your van and livelihood with competitively-priced cover from the Insurance Factory.
Get a quote for courier insurance today!