Ice, Ice, Baby: Top Tips for Safe Driving on Icy Roads

As anyone in the transport industry knows, driving in poor weather can be anything from annoying to downright dangerous. The standard advice to stay off the roads unless your journey is absolutely necessary just doesn’t work for those doing courier work. Staying at home means not getting paid so it’s simply not an option.

Driving on icy roads is a necessary evil, then. But that doesn’t mean it has to be dangerous. Follow these top tips and you should be able to complete your deliveries safely all year round.

Black Ice

Before we get into our top tips, it’s worth focusing on the unique risks posed by black ice. Especially prominent on shaded areas such as in tunnels or under bridges, black ice is a very thin, very smooth, transparent layer covering the road surface.

How to spot black ice

This is one of the biggest risks to winter road users as it can be almost impossible to see. Look out for any patches where light reflects off the asphalt. If you see other drivers swerving for no discernible reason, be aware: they may be avoiding patches of this nasty stuff.

What to do if you get caught

Being aware is ideal, of course, but you’re unlikely to be able to avoid black ice completely. If you do courier work are simply on the road too often, and at times without other vehicles to guide you. So you’re likely going to encounter this stuff at some point.

The most important tip is simple: don’t panic. Keep your wheels straight and maintain speed. Cycle down through gears to slow if necessary, avoid any sudden movement and keep control until you’re back on solid tarmac.

Be Prepared

So you’re about to head out on delivery, ready to keep an eye out for any suspicious reflective patches, but what should you bring with you to prepare?

The most important thing to remember is that collisions, whether you’re involved or not, will often leave you waiting in the cold for a long time. It’s crucial that you bring the following items in case you get stranded:

•Extra clothes and blankets to keep warm.
•A bottle of water and some snacks to keep hydrated and fed.
•A charged phone and a portable charger to keep in contact.

This last point is especially important for anyone doing courier work, where customers and the firm need to know your location.

You should also invest in some snow chains or snow socks to cover your tyres, if you drive in an area where heavy snow is at all likely.

Driving on Ice

It might sound like the latest TV dance competition, but it’s good to take these tips seriously before heading out on your courier work.

Most importantly, stay aware. Stopping distances can be up to ten times longer on icy roads, and you’ll likely have worse grip on even clean roads in the cold. Keep your speed down and your eyes open.

Next, you should stay calm. As mentioned, harsh braking and swerving are a big mistake. Instead, use higher gears to maintain engine power on packed ice and change down to reduce speed gradually.

Finally, if you find yourself in a skid, don’t jerk the wheel away. Steer gently into the direction your rear is kicking out.

Following these tips should keep you safe in cold conditions – and make sure you deliver on time, whatever the weather.

Norman Dulwich is a correspondent for Courier Exchange, the world's largest neutral trading hub for same day courier work in the express freight exchange industry. Over 5,400 member companies are networked together through the Exchange to fill empty capacity, get new clients and form long-lasting business relationships.

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