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Making deliveries in extreme weather conditions

Making deliveries in extreme weather conditions


Whether it be searing heatwaves or freezing temperatures, snow, fog, storms and floods, delivery drivers are a resilient bunch, keeping customers stocked and supplied with whatever nature throws at them.

However, their bravery shouldn’t be exploited and taken for granted. 


Companies have a duty of care to their drivers 

In extreme weather, companies cannot simply hand drivers a key and hope for the best. They have a legal and moral responsibility to take care of their drivers, from ensuring their vehicles are roadworthy, equipping them with winter tyres or air conditioning for the summer and ensuring they can cope with the extremes of weather that the Summer and Winter bring. 

With the current shortage of drivers, not looking after the ones you employ can lead to a major problem for the business.  Employees can easily go elsewhere to work if they feel they are being exploited or subjected to unsafe working conditions. Companies must do all they can to retain drivers and discourage them from activities that might potentially be harmful to their health. 

Vehicles are more likely to break down in harsh hot or cold weather conditions. Drivers should be aware of potential problem areas such as the impact on tyres, windscreen wipers etc, so it's important to make sure vehicle safety inspections take place before the vehicle is driven away. This includes making sure the fluids are topped up and having the vehicle serviced regularly while providing the driver with the ability to report any issues knowing they will be fixed as soon as possible. 


Heatwave deliveries in a van

How delivery drivers became the focus during a heatwave 

2023 has been noted as the warmest year on record, and saw European heatwaves throughout July, the UK was lucky to escape these but experienced record-high temperatures in 2022.  Highs of well over 30 degrees centigrade were seen in the UK, prompting many people to remain indoors, work from home, and limit their outside activities. 

But for some, the heat was unavoidable, and the extreme temperatures were particularly unkind to last mile delivery drivers, with tales of neglect and absence of air conditioning in vehicles to save space and weight for deliveries. 

Due to the expected increase in the number of and persistence of heatwaves, it is essential to examine how fleet management methods can be modified to better care for drivers. 

One solution for coping with a heatwave and still making last mile deliveries 

Most delivery drivers normally work during daylight hours, even during the height of summer, as they do throughout the year. 

However, in Spain where temperatures often exceed 30 degrees centigrade, people don't return to the office until after 4 p.m. If this approach was adopted during a heatwave and delivery drivers were allowed to work during the cooler hours of the day and into the evening, then the temperature they are working in would be cooler, the traffic they are driving in would be reduced, and the fleet's environmental impact could also be reduced, all thanks to better fleet management. 

Post-pandemic many people have continued to work from home or now have access to more flexible work timetables. The roads however are becoming more and more crowded, and our daily commutes could use some major improvements. Everyone on the road would benefit from allowing these alternative hours for deliveries.  


Deep Snow HGV Lorry making a delivery

Cold Weather Deliveries 

Winter brings its own challenges for delivery drivers, from snow drifts to icy conditions and fog that turn otherwise familiar routes into real danger. 

Winterised Vehicles 

Ensuring a delivery vehicle is equipped for the cold weather is essential, that’s not just the appropriate tyres and screen wash or antifreeze in the engine, but also vital provisions such as blankets, shovels and food should the vehicle become stuck or blocked in by other vehicles that are themselves stuck. 

Winter speeds 

Delivery times are likely to be slower in the Winter as drivers slow down during the freezing conditions, taking corners with more caution and maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle in front for braking.. 

Vehicle tracking 

Knowing where your drivers and their vehicles are during the winter is vital. Vehicle tracking technology will help ensure the safety of your drivers, allowing for quick assistance if the driver is unaware of their exact location.  


UK Road Flooded no deliveries

Floods and deliveries 

Floods, in particular, present a unique challenge to delivery drivers, with their ability to quickly transform familiar routes into impassable waterways. 

Impassable routes 

Floodwaters can quickly rise, rendering roads impassable for even the largest delivery vehicle. This can lead to delays, missed deliveries, and even dangerous situations if a driver attempts to enter the flooded area. 

Reduced visibility 

Heavy rain and flooding will reduce a driver’s visibility, making it difficult to navigate and forcing them to reduce their speed. Although this will cause a delay in deliveries the last thing they want is an incident which could put them at risk and miss the delivery. [H3] Customer Frustration 

Customers become frustrated when deliveries are delayed or missed due to flooding. It's vital that delivery companies communicate effectively with their customers sending delivery notifications and updates at these times. 

Coping with floods and finding alternative routes 

Floods can develop quickly, but weather forecasts and advice can help delivery companies plan for these situations, often maps and updates on flooded areas are available online. Using route optimisation software companies can plan alternative routes and avoid the worst of flood areas by routing deliveries around the problematic areas. With the help of technology and advanced planning, companies can continue to deliver essential goods and services in the face of adversity. 


A crisis is the time to innovate 

Some businesses have been caught out by extreme weather conditions. If it's not possible to install air conditioning or winter tyres on a delivery vehicle, maybe there are alternative methods to make it easier for drivers to do their jobs amid extreme conditions. 

Major Retailers need to be able to understand these intricacies before they can find solutions to the problems caused by extreme weather conditions, which include reduced productivity and health hazards. Self-scheduling technologies, for instance, have been implemented to boost performance in areas such as route density and delivery efficiency. 

Companies can be better equipped to assist their workers and provide superior service to their consumers if they have access to better transport intelligence, such as inventory, information, and assets that enable improved driver efficiency. 

Companies that are able to weather the storm are the ones that prioritise both the security and upkeep of their delivery vehicles while ensuring the effectiveness of their drivers and routes. By investing in route optimisation software, vehicle maintenance, and driver safety, companies can not only protect their workforce but also ensure deliveries reach their destinations, even when the world outside is in chaos. 

Descartes recommends a couple of solutions suitable for these situations. Descartes' delivery scheduling and route optimisation software will help to ensure deliveries are completed in a timely and effective manner, and order tracking and automated notifications can inform the customer of any delays and new ETA’s for their delivery, while the SmartCheck software app serves as a daily tool for all drivers to record and report the results of their vehicle safety inspections to the depot. 

So, the next time you order that electric heater during a freeze or snowstorm or that air fan during a heatwave, spare a thought for the delivery driver heroes. They're the ones out there navigating the roads during all sorts of extreme weather, delivering one package at a time. 


Want to learn more? Discover more about final-mile delivery solutions and daily vehicle safety check solutions from SmartCheck.