Ten Winter Driving Tips

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Donlen-Winter-Driving-TipsYep, it’s that time of year again. Winter is here, and with it comes dangerous road conditions, special requirements to keep your vehicle running, and additional wear-and-tear on vital components such as tires. We asked a few of our experts to weigh in with some tips you can pass along to your drivers.

Get inspected before you have trouble.
As cold weather sets in, Paul Ciccarelli, Senior Director, Technical Support and Training, suggests you have your vehicle’s major operating systems inspected to avoid an unexpected breakdown. Some items that need to be inspected are lights, belts, hoses, fluid levels, battery, and tires so you have good traction in the rain and snow.

Don’t panic if you begin to skid.
Rick Shick, VP Vehicle Acquisition and Strategic Sourcing, speaks from experience on this one. He once hit black ice, but remained calm. He ended up off the road, but upright and no one was hurt. Vehicles in 4WD react differently on ice than 2WD, so remember to shift back to 2WD whenever possible. If you do start to skid, turn your wheels in the direction that the rear of your car is sliding. To avoid overcorrecting, it’s helpful to look with your eyes where you want the car to go, and turn the steering wheel in that direction. Remaining calm in the moment will help you remember this tip.

Donlen Bonus TipBonus tip: If the vehicle in front of you stops spraying from the road, you may be on black ice – a transparent coating of ice that develops on the road when temps begin to freeze. Use caution and always allow for extra stopping time when driving in winter.

Keep your car clean, even through the winter months.
Gus Xamplas, VP Remarketing, wants you to keep your vehicles in top resale shape. Road salt and other pavement treatments are corrosive and can ruin the finish on your vehicle. Wash the vehicle more often, but it’s best to wait for the temperature to go above freezing so your windows and doors work properly.

Keep your plate visible.
Rob Scaffidi, VP of Licensing Services, recommends keeping your license plate(s) clear and free of ice. This is also a good time to make sure the plate light is working properly and bolts are tight. Scraping ice and snow can knock your plate loose if not secured.

Clean snow off your vehicle before you start it.
It may be tempting to warm up your car while you’re cleaning it, but you’re hurting your fuel economy. Amy Blaine, VP Consulting, Analytics, and Sustainability, reminds us that you get 0 MPG – and harm the environment – when your car sits idling. It’s better to warm your car while driving it. Plan your route so that your farthest stop is first. This will warm the car for the rest of your stops.

Be patient and don’t pass.
Don’t try to pass snow plows or sanding trucks. Rich Satzke, Accident Management Supervisor, points out that these trucks have limited visibility. In addition, the road in front of them is most likely in much worse shape. This holds true for other vehicle traffic; don’t let impatience get the best of you. Respect the road, and allow enough time to get to your destination.

Stay with your vehicle.
Rescue agencies always recommend that you stay with your vehicle in the event you have trouble or break down. Steve Jansen, Manager, Fleet Services and Regulatory Compliance, agrees and recommends that you keep an emergency kit in your truck or vehicle that includes a blanket, flashlight, water, and some snacks. Don’t run the risk of getting lost, or worse; stay with the vehicle until help can arrive.

Fill’er up.
Patty Martucci, Manager Fleet Fuel Program, advises never letting your fuel tank drop below half a tank in winter months. You may need extra fuel to keep warm if you’re stranded or there are road closures that prevent you from purchasing more fuel.

Donlen Bonus TipBonus tip: Keeping your tank full in cold weather also helps the environment. A half-empty tank will need fuel additives to dry up water condensation that can build up in cold weather which, if spilled, cause air pollution upon evaporation.

Canadian Winter Tire Regulations
Denise Semcken, VP of Customer Service, wants Canadian drivers to remember that mandatory winter tire usage runs from December 15 through March 15. This applies to all passenger road vehicles, including taxi and rental cars. (A passenger road vehicle includes up to 9 passengers). Winter tires must be on all wheel positions.

Blades up!
Carlos Oropeza, Director of Marketing, gives us a good tip for keeping your windshield wipers “un-stuck” when parked all day: park with the blades “up” if snow is expected. That way, once you clear the snow and/or ice from your windshield you simply put them back down and they are clear and ready to go. Also, don’t forget to keep your windshield wiper fluid filled (and keep some extra in the trunk) during the winter. Road spray on your windshield can quickly block your vision and having enough fluid will ensure you have clear visibility.

Have a great winter tip? Share it with us and we’ll post your tips in an upcoming issue.

Driver’s Corner

Heavy winter storms are threatening many parts of the country this weekend. If you plan to travel, be sure to follow some important safety tips:

  • Don’t drive when you’re tired. Be sure to get the proper amount of rest before you head out so that you’re alert and refreshed.
  • Check your tires to make certain they are properly inflated.
  • Stay alert for slippery areas.
  • Don’t use the cruise control when driving on any slippery surface. Winter roads are wet, icy, and sometimes covered in sand; all these can present slippery conditions.
  • Always buckle up every time you get into your vehicle, and make sure every passenger is also using their seat belt.

And finally…

And finally, although the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade has been around longer than most of us, I bet there isn’t anyone who doesn’t know what it is or have a memory about it. (Even if it’s only from watching Miracle on 34th Street!) Started in 1924, the parade has become a holiday tradition and signals the “official” start of the season for millions of people — including the 3.5 million who are expected to watch along the parade route this year. They’ll be joined by another 50 million who will be watching on TV. Fifty balloons, 40 floats, 1,600 cheerleaders, 11 marching bands, and 900 clowns will make their way down the streets of New York City. A spectator favorite, the big balloons have been around since 1927, and if you knew that Felix the Cat was the first one, you’d be correct. New this year: The Wizard of Oz 75th Anniversary balloon. Unfortunately, weather threatens this year’s parade, and organizers will have to cancel the big balloons if winds hit more than 23 MPH. Here’s hoping for calm skies.

Have a nice weekend. Safe travels.

Have questions or comments? We want to hear from you.

Originally appeared in FridayFleet on November 27, 2013

About Donlen
Donlen is the industry’s leading provider of integrated financing and management solutions for corporate fleets. Utilizing a highly consultative and strategic approach, Donlen helps fleets reduce cost, improve utilization, and increase driver safety and productivity. Donlen’s innovation has been honored with the Computerworld 2012 Honors Laureate for Economic Development, the 2012 and 2013 InformationWeek 500 List of Top Technology Innovators Across America, and the 2013 CIO 100. Their workplace excellence has been recognized on the IAOP The Global Outsourcing 100® list for seven of the last eight years, and as one of the 101 Best and Brightest Places to Work For in Chicago each year from 2007-2012. Founded in 1965 and headquartered in Northbrook, IL, Donlen is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Hertz Corporation (NYSE: HTZ). For more information about Donlen, visit www.donlen.com.