Challenges Fleet Drivers Should Expect During the Summer

When traffic volume increases, it becomes even more important to follow safe driving principles such as maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you, scanning your entire driving environment on a continual basis, and ensuring you have an escape route in the event another motorist nearby creates an unsafe situation.

Driving during June, July, and August can be more challenging than expected. There are some common issues to make your commercial fleet drivers aware of so they avoid making mistakes behind the wheel during the warmer months.

Navigating Greater Traffic Congestion

Nice weather brings more people outdoors and often onto the roads. The more congested the roads, the greater your odds of a crash for several reasons:

  • Traffic tends to make drivers stressed, impatient, and rushed, all of which can lead to unsafe driving behaviors like tailgating, changing lanes impulsively, and driving while distracted.
  • A high volume of vehicles in close proximity to each other naturally increases the odds of a collision.
  • Stop-and-go traffic can lead drivers to multitask behind the wheel, raising the risk of crashes in general and rear-end collisions in particular.

When traffic volume increases, it becomes even more important to follow safe driving principles such as maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you, scanning your entire driving environment on a continual basis, and ensuring you have an escape route in the event another motorist nearby creates an unsafe situation.

It’s especially critical to avoid tailgating since that eliminates the time and space you need to avoid striking another vehicle from behind.

Staying Safe Around Increased Road Work

Warmer temperatures are ideal for road work, and that’s not ideal for drivers. Besides the inevitable traffic delays, construction zones create an increased risk of crashes. When your travels take you through work zones, driving principles like the following can keep you safer:

  • Reduce your speed. Pay attention to reduced speed limit signs posted before and within the work zone. In many areas fines are significantly higher for speeding in work zones.
  • Maintain a safe distance. Rear-end collisions are all-too common in work zones, as drivers often pay attention to the work along the roadside and not the road itself. Keeping a safe following distance greatly reduces your odds of a rear-end crash.
  • Steer clear of road work. Never drive too close to construction vehicles or workers, both for their safety and yours. Follow directions. If a flagger indicates you need to slow down or stop, and you fail to, you’ll jeopardize your safety and could receive a traffic citation.
  • Avoid distraction. Road work zones demand more attention due to possible changes in lane markings, vehicles merging into fewer lanes, construction vehicles entering the road, or traffic coming to a halt. You might also be distracted by looking at the road work. But your focus should be on the driving task only.

The Impact of Weather

It’s less challenging to drive on dry roads than in snow or sleet. But spring and summer present a whole other set of weather-related issues that can affect your driving and your safety.  To avoid warm weather issues on the road:

  • Use quality sunglasses and your vehicle’s visor to avoid sun glare, which can keep you from seeing traffic lights, vehicles, and pedestrians. Keep a spare pair of sunglasses in your vehicle or workbag.
  • Clean your windshield (inside and outside) and your headlights on a regular basis to reduce the effects of sun glare.
  • Check the weather before you depart (and periodically throughout the day) so you’re prepared for thunderstorms or other weather problems. If heavy rain is expected, plan to depart earlier and adjust your schedule to compensate for slower speeds.
  • Reduce your speed in the rain to compensate for reduced traction and longer stopping distances.
  • Find a safe place to pull over in heavy storms if you’re having trouble seeing. But don’t stop on the shoulder, since that places you at risk of a collision caused by other motorists who can’t see well either.
  • Turn on your flashers while getting to a safe place to pull over. If you’re having a hard time seeing other vehicles on the road, those vehicles are likely having trouble seeing you as well.
  • Never drive through a road that is flooded.  You can’t tell how deep floodwaters are, and it doesn’t take much water to cause you to be stranded and in danger.
  • Make sure your vehicle is ready for the added strain of higher temperatures.

What About EVs?

Driving electric vehicles (EVs) during the summer can also present unique challenges. Here are some tips to ensure safe and efficient driving:

  • High temperatures can affect your EV’s battery life. Park in the shade or use a car cover to keep your vehicle cooler.
  • Use the air conditioning system wisely. Set it to a comfortable but not excessively cold temperature. Consider using eco mode if your vehicle has one.
  • High speeds and rapid acceleration can deplete your battery faster. Drive at a steady pace and accelerate gradually.
  • If possible, choose routes with charging stations and avoid routes with heavy traffic to minimize energy consumption due to frequent stops and starts.
  • When possible, charge your EV during off-peak hours when temperatures are cooler. This can help manage battery temperature and efficiency.
  • In very hot weather, try not to charge your battery to 100%. Keeping the charge between 20% and 80% can help preserve battery health.

Managing Weather Detours/Road Closures

Fleet drivers should plan their routes to avoid bad weather, work zones, and road closures. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), there were 891 work zone fatalities. While that number decreased by 7% compared to the following year, it’s crucial to continue to take steps to contribute to the continuing decline.

Data collected by FHWA that breaks down fatal traffic crashes by type revealed rear-end collision deaths decreased from 23% to 21% between 2021 and 2022. Additionally, Crashes fatal work zone crashes involving a commercial motor vehicle also decreased, from 33% to 30%. However, fatal work zone crashes where speed was a factor increased from 32% to 34%.

Reduce your speed in work zones, maintain a safe distance between yourself and the vehicle in front of you, and look out for commercial motor vehicles, which can take a longer amount of time to stop in the event of a roadway incident.

To keep up with the latest road conditions and plan ahead, visit the National Weather Service website for a list of phone numbers and websites for each state.

The time between Memorial Day and Labor Day are referred to as the ‘100 Deadliest Days’ because that time period results in an uptick in roadway deaths — particularly among teens, with school not in session.

Review the risks of driving at this time of year with your drivers, and how they can stay safer on their work travels.

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