Haulage insurance expert, Gauntlet, has issued some essential safety advice ahead of winter, to try to keep more HGV drivers and their loads safe.

Gauntlet, which insures haulage fleets nationwide, has adopted a ‘Load Safety Equals Road Safety’ slogan, to encourage HGV operators to remember that added pressures are applied to load management when the weather is wet and the roads potentially icy or bearing snow. Gauntlet has a top 10 tips to help steer lorry and van operators through the winter.

1. Pay added attention to braking impacts

Those loading HGVs should always remember the weight of a load alone should not be used as a guide as to whether it will shift in transit or not. More force is required to secure a load when moving than when stationary. The combined strength of the load restraint system must be sufficient to withstand a forward force no lower than the total weight of the load, so that severe braking will not throw the load forward. The system must also be able to withstand a sideways and backwards force of no lower than half the weight of the load. In winter weather, increase the load restraint system’s capacities, as severe breaking or accident impacts will create greater forces and strains on the restraints.

2. Get your anchorage right

Winter weather creates challenging driving conditions so get your anchorage capacity right. The sum of the capacity of the anchorage points on both sides of the vehicle, if evenly distributed, should not be lower than the vehicle’s maximum rated load.

3. Take care on the load bed

If you have to climb on to the loadbed, take great care. Aluminium, in particular, can become extremely slippery when wet and there is also the increased risk of falling, as you work. If you are working from height on the floor or flatbed, or even when getting out of the cab, check you are not jumping on to black ice, or oil that could lead you to slide and slip.

4. Watch out for wet tarpaulins

Trying to handle tarpaulins in windy and wet weather can be a huge hassle. Do not let that prevent you from covering and securing the tarpaulin safely. If that entails climbing on to a flatbed, be extremely careful as you handle the tarps and also take care when negotiating the four-foot drop to the ground.

5. Manage wet ropes correctly

Sisal and manila ropes can have their strength reduced by severe wet weather, so monitor carefully. Any wet ropes should always be allowed to fully dry in a natural way.

6. Check tensions

Weather can affect the tensions of lashings. Drivers should remember it is their responsibility to keep checking on the safety of the load and make tension monitoring part of that process.

7. Beware of plastics

Plastic drums, kegs, boxes and bottles can all become slippery when damp, so take particular care when handling any load comprising plastic receptacles of this kind.

8. Watch out for changed routes

If snow create diversions, and you are carrying a high load, be very mindful of any height restrictions you may encounter and any crosswinds that may affect certain routes.

Several hundred lorries per year hit bridges and other structures and many are caught out by severe winds. You should have, by law, the maximum travelling height of your vehicle displayed in a place that is clearly visible to you within your cab.

9. Prepare for wilder sea conditions

If taking your load on a ferry, remember winter weather can bring wilder seas and lorry loads are susceptible to the rolling and pitching of the vessel. The restraints you use on the road may not be up to the job when you are at sea, so prepare for this and increase the number of restraints if necessary.

10. Remember your flexible hours allowance

The Beast from the East served as a reminder HGV drivers are allowed some flexibility with their driving hours, should the weather be sufficiently bad. As part of the ethos of being responsible for their load, a HGV driver can use their judgement to get to a place of safety where they can park up and not endanger others, even if that means exceeding the usual driverhour regulations. This special dispensation is for emergencies only, and the driver should state the reasons for exceeding their hours on the back of their tachograph charts or printouts.