Technology ensures fleet safety, productivity in extreme cold

Fleet management software is one of the most reliable safeguards against winter weather conditions that normally jeopardize the productivity and safety of ground transportation businesses. Without the right technology, many of these firms, no matter how big or small, will likely face major shipping delays or run the risk of placing permanent damage on improperly maintained vehicles.

Winter weather creates obstacles for distributors
The first week of the new year already offered a multitude of lessons for fleet owners about keeping operations in full swing in the presence of extreme weather. According to the online publication Fleet Owner, many states throughout the Midwest recently experienced a powerful polar vortex that brought in record-breaking low temperatures, excessive snowfall and violent wind speeds. Government officials in Indiana, one of the states hit hardest by the storm, took extreme measures that directly disrupted shipping assignments for businesses that pass through the region's highways on a regular basis. In addition to closing all state-level government offices, Gov. Mike Pence shut down all lanes of Interstate 65 between Gary and Lafayette, Ind. Various other roads in Northwest Indiana were also temporarily closed due to icy conditions.

"The greatest impact to motorists will be slick or even icy conditions on what appears to be just wet pavement - so staying alert and slowing down will be critical for your safety and others," said Melinda Peters, a leader at the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA), which also closed many local roads in recent weeks because of inclement weather, according to the publication.

In addition to ice, many state-level transportation agencies were also warning of fog and blowing snow, which would all have a major impact on road visibility. Such conditions
can temporarily paralyze certain fleet operations that depend on the ability to make deliveries on a daily basis. However, firms that invest in comprehensive logistics software may ultimately have a better chance of managing these obstacles in a way that limits any potentially damaging effects on long-term profitability.

Low temperatures also affect maintenance operations
Still, road safety isn't the only issue affecting vehicles during periods of abnormally cold weather. Most automobiles, from small cars to heavy-duty trucks, simply aren't designed to run properly when wind chills force the outside temperatures down to negative 40 degrees, as the Los Angeles Times reported recently happened in Minneapolis. Todd Heitkamp, a warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service (NWS) in Sioux Falls, S.D., told the newspaper many of the vehicles in his organization's fleet were simply unable to start in such weather.

In fact, AAA Michigan listed several steps all fleet owners should take to ensure they are able to at least get their cars and trucks up and running to maintain a decent level of productivity during the winter. For example, motorists should always be sure to check the battery strength in every vehicle.

"Faulty batteries cause more car starting problems than any other factor," the organization stated in a press release. "At 0 degrees, a good battery has 35 percent less starting power."

AAA Michigan also stressed the importance of parking vehicles in covered garages or placing a tarp over those that must remain outdoors. A winter survival kit is another crucial safety measure that will ensure individual drivers don't get stranded in the middle of nowhere while on assignment.

Extreme winter weather can also present a variety of mechanical problems. Fleet owners who lack the resources to perform routine checkups themselves may want to consider investing in equipment maintenance software to keep their vehicles in good shape throughout the long season.

The Midwest's recent polar vortex was expected to move toward the East Coast, forcing an entirely new set of fleet businesses with many of the same challenges. AAA Michigan stressed the potential severity of these conditions. The organization said that between Jan. 1 and Jan. 3 alone, it assisted more than 12,500 motorists who had suffered from collisions, spin outs and dead batteries.

Caution is ultimately the best defense against severe weather. However, small and medium-sized firms can utilize logistics software to make it easier to plan ahead and continue operations as normal without endangering employees or damaging equipment.