If you drive regularly, then no doubt you’ve seen plenty of vehicles that are less than roadworthy. Broken wing mirrors, shattered brake lights, and flat-looking tyres are all obvious signs of a poorly kept vehicle.
While it’s expected that a company will maintain their vehicles correctly, the ultimate responsibility for checking a van lies with its driver. It is up to the driver to check the vehicle over and confirm that it is safe to drive before heading out on the road.
Along with Roger Burton at RoadSkills, we’ve put together a video in which he educates a group of van drivers on carrying out a thorough, step-by-step safety check on a van.
Carrying out these checks on a regular basis is a vital part of making sure your vehicle remain safe, legal and roadworthy. According to the HSE, it is part of an employer’s responsibility to ensure drivers know how to carry out vehicle checks.
Why is it so important?
The first and biggest reason is safety. By checking tyres a driver will help maintain their grip on the road in poor weather or in the case of an accident, as well as reducing chances of a blowout. Ensuring that lights work and that mirrors are clear and undamaged is vital, both for seeing and being seen by others. Without regular checking of fuel, lubricant and oil levels, an engine is liable to seize and potentially cause further accident or injury.
There’s another reason why these checks are so important, though. As a business you seek to minimize unwarranted cost – the cost of replacing broken down vehicles, paying sizable sums to repair or replace parts, as well as the consequences of large insurance claims to name a few. Having safe vehicles and more importantly, safe drivers is undeniably desirable to a business of any size.
What needs to be checked?
At Safedrive, we encourage our assessors to teach using the POWDERY rule. This is a short but memorable list of everything that needs to be checked on a regular basis. The POWDERY check is an important part of our on-road Driver Training, during which a driver will walk round the van with one of our qualified assessors and receive training on how to carry out these checks.
P – Petrol (or diesel)
It’s vital to ensure that your van has enough fuel. Running on fumes or using the wrong kind of fuel can do major damage to the engine and cause it to break down or seize. Having little to no fuel in your van means your fuel pump may suck in dirt from the bottom of the tank, which can clog it and result in a very costly repair.
Don’t ignore that fuel warning light! Around a quarter of all drivers believe they still have 40+ miles left when the fuel warning light comes on – but it’s actually drastically less on average. Before starting a long journey, plan your route well ahead of time and ensure you have enough fuel in the tank to get you to your destination – or at least a refueling station.
O – Oil & Lubricants
Always check that your van has enough oil. Without enough lubricant you’ll soon have carbon deposits building up inside the engine. Carrying out a quick, regular check is much easier (and cheaper) than replacing worn-out parts.
Ensure you have enough brake fluid, as well as sufficient lubricant for the gearbox, clutch, engine and power steering. Not all vans will provide access to all locations, so if you are unsure where you are able to access, check your vehicle handbook.
Remember that if you run out of oil altogether the engine will fail and the van will seize almost immediately, which is incredibly dangerous and could easily destroy your engine – so take care to ensure the levels don’t run low.
W – Water
Water plays a vital role in the upkeep of your van. There are various places around a vehicle that can be checked for water – if you are unsure of where on your particular van provides access, check your vehicle handbook.
Ensure you have enough engine coolant, as well as water for your windscreen. It’s important to keep a driver’s view clear and unobstructed at all times, and a dirty windscreen can only lead to disaster.
If your van runs out of water, you may find yourself in trouble. Without the cooling effect the engine will quickly overheat, eventually leading to inner warping and potential engine seizing.
D – Damage
Before entering your vehicle, check the exterior for damage. If your van is parked on a public highway, it may have received some damage overnight. Most employers require regular checks and will provide a sheet for you to report any damage, so make sure you do so immediately.
Look out for damage to lights, windows or mirrors, and ensure you log and report any damage you discover. Consider if the damage is sufficient enough to pose a risk to driver safety and if so, the vehicle should not be driven until repairs have been carried out.
E – Electrics
When checking a van, ensure your lights work as they should, especially your brake lights, indicators, and headlamps. Check as well that all of your interior electrics are working, including your horn and any interior lighting.
Driving without working lights is likely to result in you or your drivers being pulled over and given three licence points, along with a charge of up to £60.
These checks are particularly important if you are planning to drive at night or in poor weather. Even if not, rain is always a possibility and fog can form quickly, so it’s best to be prepared.
R – Rubber
In the UK, the legal minimum tread depth for car and van tyres is 1.6mm. Despite this, plenty of drivers still do not check these regularly. Having too little tread makes you more likely to skid or lose control of your vehicle. It also makes driving in icy or wet weather very dangerous.
If you are found to have less than 1.6mm of tread, you may receive 3 penalty points and up to £2,500 in charges. If you are unsure of your tread depth, use the 20p trick. Press a coin into one of the grooves of your tyre. If the outer band is hidden, your tread is likely deep enough. If you can see any of the outer band, the tyres may be worn down and need to be looked at before the vehicle is taken out on the road.
It’s also important to ensure that your tyres are well-inflated. Wear along the outer edges may suggest an under-inflated tyre, while wear limited to the centre of the tread may be a sign of over-inflation.
Y – You
Even if your van is in perfect condition, it means nothing if the driver is not. You should ensure that you (or your drivers) are well rested before beginning a journey. Do not drive while under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol. Consider using THINK’s Drink Drive Calculator to make sure you do not drive while over the limit – Click here to visit site.
As of 2nd March 2015, the laws surrounding drug driving have changed. There are now laws to prevent people driving while taking certain over-the-counter or prescription medicines that could pose a safety risk. Click here to read our post on the new laws.
What else can we do?
The main way to increase safety, reduce the risk and cost of accidents, and improve on your insurance costs is to have skilled, experienced drivers who know the road.
Most drivers are competent – but those who have been well trained and educated have the fewest accidents by far. At Safedrive we provide on-road training sessions for drivers of all vehicles including cars, vans, HGVs, Minibuses, 4x4s and more besides.
On one of our 1:1 training sessions, your drivers will be shown how to carry out a thorough vehicle check using the POWDERY rule of thumb. This is a vital part of driving for work and absolutely necessary for businesses of all sizes.
The sessions also include assessment, presentation, discussion and focus on improving – so by the end of a session your drivers will not only know how to check and maintain a safe vehicle, but will also have worked tirelessly with one of our assessors to reduce their own risk behind the wheel.
Driver Training is provided across the UK. If you would like further information on this provision or if you have any questions, please get in touch. You can either call the office on 01952 298990, or you can email us directly here.