With much of the country suffering from unusual snowfalls, extreme blizzard-like conditions, and dangerous amounts of ice, tow truck drivers are left inundated with service calls. In the best conditions, vehicles have simply slid across the ice and become stuck in banks of snow. In the worst conditions like the 133 car pileup in Fort Worth, icy road conditions leave cars mangled and passengers injured or killed.
What can towing companies do to reduce risk and provide the best help to customers?
- First and foremost, make sure tow drivers are safe. Require drivers to wear appropriate footwear for snow and icy conditions, socks and gloves rated for extreme cold, and waterproof snow pants. Of course, make sure drivers wear proper reflective/safety jackets to optimize their visibility. Every truck should include a well-stocked first aid kit, extra water, and a thermal blanket.
- Make sure all your vehicles are maintained for the cold weather conditions. When temperatures drop below 20°F, adding anti-gel additives will help keep your fuel tank from gelling or freezing. Talk with your fleet management company or trusted service center for the best winter maintenance products for your vehicles.
- Make sure you are using the right tires. Depending on your company’s location, make sure you are using snow tires or studded tires and have the right snow chains for your vehicle onboard. It’s a good idea to have drivers practice installing chains before heading out in the snow, too.
- Encourage all drivers to use heightened safety precautions in winter weather. Driving more slowly than usual will give drivers more control of their vehicles and allow extra time to stop. Trying to stop too quickly by applying sudden pressure on the brakes may result in fishtailing or sliding. Turning on blinkers earlier than normal gives surrounding cars more time to react.
- Practice driving in the snow and ice. If your business is located in an area that does not normally experience snow and ice, make sure your drivers practice maneuvering in the conditions before going out on a job.
- Beware of black ice. Black ice typically forms on overpasses and bridges because the gap of air beneath the structure allows ice to freeze more quickly in these areas. Be sure all your drivers know to be on the lookout for spots of possible black ice.
- Make sure you have plenty of orange cones, reflective warning signs, and flashing lights onboard. It will be harder for other drivers to see your tow employees working in the snow while they are trying to navigate in those same conditions themselves.
- Educate drivers on your company’s policies surrounding injured customers. It’s easy for customers to be injured in a slide or become disoriented after sustaining a small crash. Tow truck drivers should be on the lookout for potential issues and know how to call for emergency services or notify your headquarters as appropriate.
- Be ready to give customers a lift. It will be much more difficult or impossible for your customers to find a family, friend, or even taxi to be able to reach them in the cold weather to give them a ride home. Take a few minutes to clear out your passenger area to make it clean and comfortable for your customers.
- Use the right tow equipment for snow and ice. Make sure your team is equipped with the easiest-to-use towing equipment from Collins Dollies. Collins Hi-Speed and Carrier Dolly systems are lightweight to carry, use best-in-class safety ratcheting systems, and are safe to use in snow and ice conditions. Check out the Collins Dollies website for more information.
By using good safety measures and spending more time making sure each vehicle and driver is prepared for treacherous conditions, your team will be able to successfully help customers during even the worst weather this winter brings.