Pros and Cons of Driving in the Summer: Fleet Edition
Summer is upon us. Sunday, June 20th will officially mark the beginning of the sunshine season. In Southern California we are already experiencing a rise in temperatures that brings with it a craving for ice cream on the beach and cold beverages outside with friends. With COVID-19 restrictions being uplifted in many areas, this summer too looks to be much more lively than the last. How does the summer season affect the roads, though? What are some of the key benefits and what are some of the disadvantages to the summer season for fleet drivers?
Summer Driving Pros
The main benefits are straightforward: better weather. In the winter fleets have to deal with many environmental challenges such as frigid cold temperatures, snowstorms, heavy rain, and more. All of these challenges lead to many accidents on the road and are a nightmare for fleets to prepare for. Extra equipment is often needed for extreme conditions, and trips can be set back at any point in time. Even just the general driver livelihood is much different when driving in freezing cold temperatures versus a nice summer day. Summer weather eliminates many worries regarding fleet driver and vehicle safety. Even as an individual driver, many of these points hold true. I know I would much rather drive in a summer day than through a snowstorm. And I can only imagine how everything multiplies when driving a semi-truck.
Summer Driving Cons
While most people would still take summer driving over winter, there are a handful of different factors that fleets need to prepare for when entering the summer season. Summer weather conditions do also pose problems for drivers, and the heat of the season can cause many different maintenance issues/concerns.
Even though summer is most imagined as laughter in the sand, different regions experience different types of harsh weather. For example, summer is notoriously hurricane season for the east coast. Hurricanes are very dangerous and can heavily delay/alter fleet operations. When operating in regions commonly affected by hurricanes, fleet managers must think proactively as to minimize damage to their operations. Looking at the west coast, June through September is recognized as fire season, which is continually getting more and more brutal as the years progress. Just like hurricanes, fires can lead to road closures and shutdowns based on severity, and overall are a big threat to safety. Lastly, even though rain occurs more in the winter, summer still experiences rainfall which is the cause of 46% of all weather-related accidents. Rainfall brings driving challenges like hydroplaning, fishtailing, and overall nervousness and worry to drivers.
With the sun comes the heat. Hot days and heat waves can pose more problems to fleet vehicles than needing to turn up the A/C. These issues are mostly seen in the vehicle’s tires and engine. First, with tires, they are very susceptible to blowouts and flats during the heat. This is due to the fact that in the winter most tires become more deflated (less air pressure) and then when the summer comes, that lower pressure is heated up, causing the tires to expand and then blowout. Next, engines also become a concern during the heat. During the heat, engines can overheat and then fail, or even cause a small fire. Both of these situations are very dangerous while on the road. For both cases, having a robust maintenance schedule is very helpful, but also proper training to drivers to recognize signs of the engine overheating or the tires being flat can prevent a very dangerous situation on the road.
Last but certainly not least, the roads in general become more flooded with all sorts of different things. First, drivers on the road in general uptick during the summer season, especially in bigger cities and common tourist attractions. We all know the frustration when the summer rolls around and normal 10-minute drives turn to 15/20 and traffic becomes the norm. Even as this summer season has rolled around, my drive time back from work has already increased by about 10-15 minutes. Moving past the highway, city streets are not only more packed with cars, but also with pedestrians, bicyclists, and more. For fleets operating large vehicles, this not only slows down route times, but likewise poses a threat to safety as pedestrians are hard to see from every angle. Finally, with the better weather, more construction projects occur. These projects can have a heavy toll on the drive time for different routes and make it harder for the drivers to do their job. All three of these factors slow down fleet operations, and so knowing this ahead of time, fleet managers need to proactively plan for longer travel times to allow themselves the chance to continue fulfilling everything.
The summer sun brings a lot of benefits to us and fleet drivers. But there are still many negatives that fleets must proactively plan for to ensure they do not miss a beat. Utilizing technologies like the EZ750 gateway from EZ Fleet Tracking can help with locating cars affected by weather like hurricanes, fires, or rainstorms, with regulating maintenance of vehicles, and with illuminating driving behaviors that need to be adjusted to accommodate for busier and more variable road conditions.