Making sure taxi drivers are ready for winter

Winter taxi checks

Taxi drivers earn their living on the roads and their vehicles must be ready for anything, including the freezing temperatures we are currently experiencing with what has been called the Troll of Trondheim.

Taxis are the tools of their driver’s trade and need to be maintained to the highest standards. Safety is always the priority, but it is more than just getting passengers to their destination. They need to be comfortable and relaxed in a clean and well-maintained taxi, whether it is a black cab or private hire vehicle.

As well as making sure their vehicle is ready for the next passengers, taxi drivers must also take the conditions into account, especially when the temperature plummets.

After a mild November, temperatures for December had been average until Tuesday, when they dropped to -9C in the Scottish Highlands, -8.5C in Cumbria and cities such as Manchester recording -5C.

In freezing conditions, many checks are simple – most are the same that should be carried out all year round – and take a few seconds, but can mean the difference between an uneventful journey with a happy passenger, and a breakdown or an accident which could result in a claim on a driver’s public hire insurance or private hire insurance.

Car batteries are usually the first on any checklist but are more important in winter, as Auto Express points out that the cold weather can make vehicles more difficult to start, especially if a taxi has been parked overnight.

If a vehicle is difficult to start, the battery could need to be charged fully, or it could be faulty and need replacing. No one likes to fork out on these things, but it is better than being stranded in the cold.

As well as starting petrol and diesel vehicles, the cold also affects the batteries of electric vehicles, reducing the power available and, with heating, lights and technology such as sat-navs and smart phones connected, can dramatically reduce the range of the vehicle. Taxi drivers with EVs are also advised to keep a close eye on their power consumption and make sure they can reach their destination.

It is also important to check anti-freeze levels in the engine’s cooling system, especially when temperatures fall below freezing. Anti-freeze prevents the cooling water from freezing and causing damage to the engine. It is important to make sure levels are topped up and there aren’t any leaks, but it is vital that the correct concentration is used.

While EVs don’t have the same cooling system, screen wash is something that can freeze in any vehicle and it is again important to make sure the reservoir is topped up with the correct concentration of anti-freeze to help keep windscreens clear, especially with grit, dirt and ice on the roads.

Before each shift, it’s also worth checking a taxi’s exterior lights, not only to make sure they are all working, but also that they aren’t obscured by ice or dirt from the wintry roads. Longer nights and lower visibility can make it more difficult for other road users to see you which is why lights need to be clean and clear.

For those who operate their taxis and private hire vehicles in areas where it frequently snows or temperatures remain below freezing, it is worth considering having winter tyres put on for extra grip and safety. Even if you don’t opt for winter tyres, it is important to make sure that those on your vehicle are in good condition and have more than the legal limit of 1.6mm of tread to improve steering and breaking.

Many of the checks recommended are simple to do and there are often quick fixes people can carry out themselves if necessary, but many garages offer free or low-cost winter checks to help keep you safe on the roads.

It is also worth keeping certain things in the car in case of an accident or breakdown, including warm clothes, a torch, first-aid kit, de-icer and scraper, hi-viz vest or jacket, wellington/waterproof boots and a mobile phone and charger to summon help.

Hopefully none of it will be needed, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. And if something does happen, you are prepared and can be back on the road much quicker.

Information correct at time of publication. Information provided within this article may have changed over time. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by John Patons Insurance Services or any of its employees.