From preparing your cab and helping customers to managing your drivers’ mental health, here’s how to have a successful winter season.
Running a taxi business in winter months can be challenging but also profitable. With all those Christmas parties and shoppers looking for rides, you can’t exactly afford to hang up your taxi keys and head off to the Bahamas for the winter.
What are the best ways you can prepare for the colder months? When you get a taxi insurance quote, does it cover all your winter risks adequately?
If you’re a cab driver, it’ll come as no surprise that the cold season brings plenty of challenges. First, the weather: reduced light cuts visibility, making it hard to see the road ahead. Ice, snow and fog can bring traffic to a standstill. Even if the temperature stays above zero, increased rainfall can make driving harder and create slippery muddy conditions on the roads.
Winter puts more strain on your vehicle. You’re more likely to encounter battery problems or even a frozen radiator in the winter. You need to make sure systems for heating, windscreen wiping, antifreeze and so on are in good condition when you might not have used them for months in the summer.
People pose an extra challenge. Vulnerable clients such as older people or people with disabilities will be at increased risk of slipping on ice. You may encounter other drivers who seem clueless about driving in cold weather and increase risk for other road users.
At night, the party season can make city centres difficult to navigate as drinkers wobble their way home after one too many.
Winter can also be hard on drivers. Whereas in summer cabbies might enjoy standing out for a chat and a cuppa, in winter it can be a lonelier job, with long hours of driving in the dark. The cold and tricky driving conditions can reduce enjoyment of the role, impacting driver morale.
Let’s take a look at some ways you can keep your business on track in the winter months.
At the end of autumn, it’s a good idea to do a thorough check of your vehicle and make sure it’s in tip top form for the coming cold season. A breakdown or accident means time off the road, which means less income and extra inconvenience.
Spending a little on maintenance before it gets too cold can pay off in the long run. Always check if there are particular things you need to do to maintain your vehicle under different providers when you get a taxi insurance quote.
Here are some of the elements you need to check:
The legal limit might be 1.6 mm but we’d recommend having at least 3 mm of tread all round. Worn tyres will have reduced grip on the road, increasing the likelihood of accidents.
If you drive in an exposed location that often has deep snow, should you consider snow chains or winter tyres to help with icy roads? These will help with grip but can impact fuel economy.
Most batteries last up to five years. In winter, a vehicle will use more electricity for heating, lighting and wipers, adding to wear on the battery. A quick check at the garage will show if a battery is on its last legs.
It’s probably better to replace at your own convenience than risk a flat battery with a customer in the back.
Wiper blades are cheap and easy to clean or replace. Make sure they’re in good condition, and add antifreeze to screenwash to help prevent an icy screen.
Check fleet drivers know that screens should be completely clear of snow, ice and debris before driving - they risk a fine for driving with partial visibility.
Check that all of the vehicle’s lights are working - sidelights, headlights on dipped and full beam but also fog and snow lights. Clean the lenses and make sure your drivers know what the law says about when different lights should be used.
The registration plate should also be clean and legible at all times.
Skimping on antifreeze is an absolute false economy, because it costs pennies but can protect your vehicle from expensive damage. In winter, a 50-50 mix of antifreeze to water is advisable.
Check your vehicle manual to see if the car is designed for long-life antifreeze - some types of antifreeze need to be removed and changed after a few years.
For those twinkling icy windscreens, a good quality ice scraper is essential. A shovel and jump leads are also good to have on board.
It’s always a good idea to carry emergency items like a warning triangle, high vis clothing and a first aid kit. In the winter months, you might want to add some items for breakdowns or accidents in the cold season. This might include a spare mobile phone and power bank, a fleece or foil blanket, and a torch with spare batteries.
Warm clothes and waterproofs will also be very welcome for customers and drivers waiting at the side of the road for a rescue vehicle. Check whether breakdown insurance is included in your taxi insurance quote.
Giving vehicles a service before the temperature drops can help to ensure they’re in good condition for the winter period. Regular servicing often pays for itself by picking up problems before they become bad enough to cause damage to the engine.
Road gritting might help you get a grip on the road but this salty residue causes corrosion on your cab - rinsing the vehicle off at the end of each shift can help to keep it in good condition.
If drivers are aware of their vehicle and encouraged to report any concerns, it can prevent cars from being driven in a dangerous condition or developing more serious faults. For example, unusual sounds or a difference in handling should be investigated straight away.
When searching for taxi insurance quotes, breakdown cover could ensure your drivers, cabs and passengers aren’t stranded in the cold.
We like to think the amount of experience cab drivers have on the road makes them experts at everything - but there’s no harm in giving your drivers a refresher on how to drive in colder weather.
This is especially the case if they’re relatively new to driving, or moved from another country where cold weather is less common. You might find when you get taxi insurance quotes that a certain level of training and awareness is a requirement from the provider.
Firstly, make sure drivers know how to take care of the vehicle: windscreens, checking lights and registration plates, carrying a winter kit, and how to clear snow and ice from the vehicle safely.
It’s a good idea to thoroughly de-ice a vehicle the night before a morning shift, to reduce the amount of scraping that will be needed in the morning. If a taxi can be kept in a garage, this is even better and could help to bring down your premiums when it’s time to get taxi insurance quotes.
A traditional method of de-icing windows was to pour hot water over them from a kettle. This is not advised as it can damage the windows if used too much. Putting a cover over the windscreen is a better idea.
You can also help drivers learn more about managing skids in icy weather, especially if they will be driving into the small hours when the roads can be particularly icy. Skids are most commonly caused by failing to drive correctly in the road conditions.
It goes without saying that a skid can cause expense, inconvenience, distress to your drivers and customers and, in the worst case scenario, result in police action, increased taxi insurance quote premiums, and negative publicity. So it’s worth taking the time to manage this risk.
Here’s what you (and your drivers) need to know about skidding in icy weather:
Skidding feels different for a front-wheel or rear-wheel drive car. In a front-wheel drive, the steering wheel will feel unresponsive and strangely light. You won’t be able to steer effectively, so if you’re approaching a corner, the car will continue into the other lane of the road rather than turning.
In a front-wheel skid, it’s best to steer in the direction you want to go and the car will hopefully regain traction at some point so the driver regains control. If this doesn’t work, pressing on the brakes briefly might help.
For a rear-wheel drive car, the rear of the vehicle will move out and cause the vehicle to spin. In both cases, pressing the brake or accelerator pedal will have little or no impact on the vehicle. The best course of action is to steer into the skid, so if you’re skidding to the left, steer in that direction.
Vehicles now often have additional safety technology to address skid risk, for example ABS or a traction control system (TCS/ASR) that stops the car from skidding. Many cars have electronic stability control (ESC) which combines ABS and TCS, detecting a skidding issue and reducing engineer power or applying ABS in response.
One of the problems with skidding is that it happens rarely, so drivers don’t get a chance to practise their skills in managing it. Thankfully, most skidding results in no damage or injury, but the potential consequences can be fatal.
A skid-pan course can be helpful, as drivers practise driving on a controlled slippery surface under the supervision of an experienced instructor.
In wintry weather, there’s a big difference between driving around an urban centre and making longer journeys through rural areas. In a city or town, the roads are likely to be gritted, help will be on hand if you have an accident and there are plenty of cafes and shops where you can get out of the cold.
In a rural location, roads are less likely to be gritted or travelled upon to break up ice and an accident or breakdown might leave drivers and passengers stranded in an area without phone signal. You can also encounter flooding and fallen trees in rural areas during adverse weather.
In view of this, it makes sense to put planning into managing longer journeys, such as airport runs or intercity travel. This includes checking the weather forecast carefully; planning the route and having alternatives in case a road is closed.
Always set off on a long journey with plenty of fuel, as you never know whether you might need to take a longer route and service stations are harder to find in remote locations. A sat nav with up-to-date maps is also important, along with a hard copy map as a backup. Never rely on phone map guidance alone, as you might find yourself in a signal blackspot.
Careful positioning is vital in icy weather - being too close to the car in front increases the likelihood of a collision as it takes a lot longer to brake on a slippery road. Requirements for driving in icy or snowy weather are covered under the Highway Code s 228-231- make sure your drivers are familiar with these sections.
When managing your fleet drivers, take care not to overload them or put pressure on them to complete journeys quickly. This might result in them going faster than is safe.
A calm driver is a safer driver, but winter conditions can lead to drivers becoming stressed and even depressed or struggling with other mental health issues. Making trips in snow, ice and fog can strain the nerves, while being out in dark conditions when it’s cold and bleak takes its toll in the long winter months.
Christmas sees bumper bookings for cabbies to help with parties and the festive season, but it can also be a hard time of year for many people. If drivers have recently lost someone or have difficulties at home, delivering other people to parties and fun can be particularly hard.
In addition, many passengers use taxi trips to share problems with the driver, using them as a kind of informal counsellor. In the pandemic one in five passengers said they told taxi drivers about their problems. Over time, this can become overwhelming for cabbies who are struggling themselves and don’t know where to turn for help.
You can help support your drivers by checking in with them regularly to see if they feel overworked or under too much pressure. Bringing drivers together for the odd training session or social get together can also help to build up morale and make people feel more supported.
Drivers are likely to feel better if they simply know managers understand the challenges they face and are trying to find ways to overcome them.
You can also help drivers by supporting them to live healthy lifestyles. This might include regular breaks to help reduce stress, encouraging good sleep habits, offering a good breakfast or fruit snacks, and supporting them to do exercise.
Mental health and physical health are closely linked. If you can encourage healthy lifestyles in your drivers, they are more likely to stay positive and avoid sickness absence. Which, in turn, has a more positive effect on your business.
Customers want to feel safe and comfortable when they’re in your taxi. The crucial thing is to drive safely in colder weather. There’s nothing more important than personal safety, and a customer who thinks your firm cuts corners or goes a little too fast on the ice will surely not want to book with you again.
It can be a tricky balance to get people to their destination on time if harsh weather conditions slow progress, but safety must always come first.
Good communication with customers can be a positive asset - when they book a journey, warn them if the trip might take longer due to harsh weather and let them know if this will push up the cost of the trip. Make sure you tell them this is because you want to prioritise their safety.
Inside the cab, using rubber mats can help to prevent the floor from being wet and slippery, but be sure to dry them off with an old towel regularly. Keep the temperature warm but not too hot as this can make it hard to drive - a soft blanket might be a good option for passengers who feel the cold.
Be aware that passengers with mobility issues might need extra help in icy conditions. They might appreciate offers of help into and out of the vehicle and up their front path to reduce the risk of falling.
When obtaining quotes for taxi insurance consider public and employers liability, which can cover you if a passenger or driver brings a
Impress your mates with these top winter driving facts.
When you start looking for taxi insurance quotes, remember that it’s important to be sure what’s covered under the policy. If one of your fleet has an accident, you’ll need a reliable, flexible insurance provider to help get the vehicle back on the road again.
Safeguard your future with a taxi insurance quote from us today.