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How to Beat the Heat and Drive Your HGV Safely in Summer

14 July 2022

Temperatures are rising, summer is here, and hopefully for several weeks. It can be harder for commercial drivers, in particular those that do long-haul journeys, to manage in the heat. Snow, rain and ice are common winter threats when it comes to driver safety, however summer driving brings with it its own set of risks, including dehydration, increased roadworks and vehicle malfunctions.

Though, during the summer months, temperature isn’t the only cause for concern at this time of the year. Good weather conditions mean more drivers on the road, with the Independent reporting on past research (telematics data used) by insurer Admiral, concluding that drivers are 21% more likely to speed during summer, in fact 10% of the annual speeding convictions are registered in June.

The warmer months require more attention when it comes to safe driving practices. Therefore, in this article, we’ll provide summer driving tips, so HGV drivers can beat the heat and drive their vehicle safely.

1. Check Your Vehicle

As an HGV driver, you’ll always perform a daily walk around check in any case, but the arrival of summer makes this all the more important. And it goes without saying that the hotter weather means that all your vehicle’s cooling systems have to work harder, so it’s worth checking everything carefully.

Keep an eye out for these common problems that could come about during summer:

  • Tyre blowout – warmer weather can sometimes be a cause for concern when it comes to tyres. Since many different components heat up around them, including the air, tarmac and external metal, the risk of tyre blowout increases as tyres build up heat and air pressure quickly. In the instance that a tyre heats up above its design specifications, this is when a blowout could happen. Whilst there’s not much you can do to ensure your HGV’s tyres remain cool, you can ensure that they’re correctly inflated to the manufacturers’ specifications, as under-inflated tyres can also increase the risk of tyre blowout.
  • Brake fade – warmer weather can impact the performance of your brakes just as much as cold weather can. When brakes are initiated, they cause friction which in turn produces heat. And when outside temperatures are already warm, this can cause an excessive build-up of heat, leading to brakes becoming less responsive. To prevent this, make sure your brake fluid isn’t old, check your brake pads are in good condition and where possible leave plenty of time to slow down before braking.

2. Stay Hydrated

Naturally, the hotter the weather gets, the more you’ll sweat which results in a loss of body fluids. However, you can regain these body fluids by regularly drinking water. Not only will this help lower your body temperature but it will keep you cooler in the heat too. If these fluids aren’t restored, it can lead to dehydration – even mild forms of dehydration can cause muscle weakness, headaches, fatigue and dizziness. Such symptoms can result in a bigger cause for concern as all can impact concentration levels which not only puts you as the driver in danger but other road users too. Therefore, it’s crucial that HGV drivers stay hydrated throughout the summer months.

Always check you have a sufficient supply of water in your cab before you set off – particularly if you’re a long-haul HGV driver. You could even freeze some bottles to use as ice packs – let them defrost for the duration of your journey so that they’re extra chilled for drinking later.

3. Be Prepared for Glare

Whilst those bright, summer days can boost our mood, there’s also a bigger risk of your vision being impaired due to the sunlight – especially if you’re driving towards it. Not only can this be distracting but it could also result in delayed reaction times if you were to encounter a hazard on the road. The Department for Transport (DfT) reported that dazzling sunlight contributed to 2,324 accidents in 2017, and 25 of these were fatal.

Whilst resorting to using your cab’s sun visor is the natural reaction to sun glare, rule 237 of the Highway Code advises drivers to slow down or pull over if they feel the sunlight is becoming blinding. Having said that, it may also be worth investing in a good pair of polarised driving sunglasses, as they’ll protect your eyes from harmful UV rays, reduce glare and make it easier to see clearly. With the help of the Optical Suppliers Association, the AA have put together a guide on which driving sunglasses are best.

4. Increase Stopping Distance

The warmer months may mean more people on the road as everyone heads on their summer holidays. Therefore, regardless of the weight of the load you’re carrying, or the type of trailer you have, make sure to increase your stopping distance. This can help offset the risks brought on by heavier traffic congestion, construction zones and other holidaying road users who may be driving in unfamiliar areas.

5. Take Extra Care Around Roadworks

Better weather also means that more road construction workers will be out too. With the higher likelihood that you’ll have to navigate through roadworks during the summer months, be mindful of these workers when they’re close to your lorry. Make sure to stay alert, observe warning signs and slow down in construction zones.

6. Keep Your Vehicle Well Ventilated

Heat can make you feel drowsier, and if you’re stuck in a long line of traffic unable to do any driving, it can get to you. Rule 237 of the Highway Code states the following:

“Keep your vehicle well ventilated to avoid drowsiness.”

Use the air con to get a blast of cold air going through your cab. This will keep you alert and prevent feelings of drowsiness. Or if you prefer to be more au-natural, open your vehicle’s windows to get some fresh air blowing in and around your vehicle.

7. Make the Most of Your Breaks

When the weather is hotter, it’s easy to get tired as our body works overtime to try and make sure we remain cool. So, it’s important to make the most of your breaks to stay energised. For instance, you can do this by going to a truck stop or petrol station to stock up on water, get some shade if you’ve been driving in direct sunlight all day and recharge yourself with fresh air.

The summer months can make driving a far more enjoyable experience. However, in a heatwave, or just hotter temperatures than we’re used to in the UK, it can also be difficult and hazardous. If you’re on the road this summer, try some of the tips above to not only keep yourself but other road users safe too.

If you’d like to talk to us about staying safe on the road, call us on 0808 178 9977 or chat to one of our agents right now.