The constant onslaught of storms across the country this season forced fleet-based businesses to face tough logistical problems. Weather systems with ominous names like the “polar vortex” caused roads to close, cities to lose power, and regions ill-equipped to deal with such extreme conditions to learn about sub-zero temperatures the hard way. The result was a messy mix of unexpected school closures, abandoned vehicles, and people stuck at the office or even in school buses for several hours or overnight.
For fleets, the common questions were: Can roads and highways be safely navigated in slick and icy conditions? What about the dense fog and high winds? Can deliveries be made on time, if at all? How can service-based companies respond to emergencies as quickly and efficiently as possible? Plus, there was the matter of the spike in fuel costs; as the thermostat dropped, natural gas prices seemed to proportionately rise.
However, for some businesses these storms have upped their activity — and their bottom line. In preparation for up to eight inches of snow, Pittsburgh is adding 65 public trucks to their fleet while PennDOT sped up deliveries of road salt, sending 60 dump trucks to pick up 20,000 tons from a vendor in Delaware to be taken to the Philadelphia, Allentown, and Harrisburg regions. With deliveries taking place 24/7, some fleet owners might argue business has never been better. But while the public sector side of things is needed more than ever, the private fleets are seeing rescheduled and even canceled deliveries in their forecast.
According to the Insurance Information Institute in New York, “Wave after wave of winter storms have grounded tens of thousands of flights, frozen pipes, collapsed roofs, and disrupted business across the U.S. Insured losses reached more than $1.5 billion since Jan. 1.”
How Can You Prepare?
1. GET GAS Maintain fuel levels at no less than a half a tank of gas at all times. Water vapor that collects in the bottom of a tank can be drawn into the fuel line and freeze, preventing engine start. In areas of extreme cold, gas-line antifreeze is a beneficial additive.
2. WIPE WELL Inspect vehicle wipers and consider switching them to heavy-duty blades in areas prone to frequent snow showers and storms. Heavy-duty blades also can cut through some ice buildups. Check each vehicle to make sure every light is working at full beam.
3. UNDER PRESSURE Drastic temperature changes can cause substantial tire pressure fluctuation. Drivers should check tire pressure several times a month. Improperly inflated tires can reduce gripping action when drivers need it most.
4. GET CONNECTED Affordable M2M solutions, which can communicate from the office to the road, can help quickly locate trucks in trouble and where they are on a map.
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