As winter is already taking over most of Europe, apart from preparing for all the fun, it is important to remember about safety on the road. In 2022, the European Transport Research Review published a study about how different weather conditions affect the probability of a road accident, particularly – winter weather. The conclusions of this research revealed that single-truck crashes have the largest Relative Risk Increase (RRI) of 872.9%. This is a concerning number, keeping in mind that in Europe 77% of transport is handled by road freight (European Commission, 2023). When driving in winter conditions, truck drivers may be more prone to getting into road accidents than any other vehicle drivers.
Partnership to provide drivers with exceptional training
It is important to understand that drivers face different challenges depending on where they are. Their usual driving skills might not work as well in new weather or road conditions. This can lead to more damage made to vehicles, higher costs for repairs, and an increase in empty mileage. Hence, training and working together with others is key to improving driving skills, especially in tough conditions. On top of that, we are already facing a significant challenge – driver shortage.
The International Road Transport Union’s latest report reveals that at least 50% of road transport operators have serious problems hiring skilled drivers in the majority of 36 countries included in the report (IRU, 2023). One way to address this major concern is to invest more in the education of the drivers and collaboration between logistics companies and manufacturers to ensure their theoretical and practical knowledge and skills are upgraded.
A great example is a recent educational activity held by Volvo and Thermomax, a Girteka Group company. For the “Safe Driving in winter” initiative, the partners joined their forces in educating drivers on driving in harsh conditions to deliver practical and theoretical training before the start of the winter season.
„In my opinion, these courses provide very essential knowledge, needed for driving in winter in countries in Northern Europe like Norway, where you have very different driving conditions than in other parts of the world. Gathering all the drivers, discussing and presenting main challenges, tips and tricks, and the latest features is very helpful later on in their daily work. What is really positive is that during those meetings we come up with new tips for driving in winter. And since practice is just as important as knowledge, drivers have the opportunity to check their skills during training, achieving the highest score,” shared Arne Jan Hopen, a representative from Volvo, one of the organizers of the winter driving courses in Norway.
During the training, the drivers are provided with lectures from experienced Thermomax drivers, as well as Volvo, the Police and Fire department specialists, and the National Roads administration. Together, they are able to discuss technical details such as updates on rules and regulations on roads, traffic, proper maintenance of the vehicle. It is also a great platform for all participants to share tips and tricks on how to detect ice, black ice, what to do when faced with certain risks and issues in relation to extreme driving conditions and how the drivers, being part of the supply chain, impact the environment.
Attention to safety and well-being of the driver is also part of this training course – health and nutrition specialists provide lectures on health, exercise, and nutrition in relation to job specifics in Scandinavian countries, as a preventative measure to avoid more serious health problems or injuries.
“We are very happy about these courses – while Volvo provides the tools, such trainings ensure that our drivers use these tools properly and with high responsibility, taking care not only of the inventory and their own safety but also bringing more safety onto the roads in general,” states Tore Rødsten, CEO of Thermomax. “Currently, we are the only ones in Norway providing such training for truck drivers, which some regard as a great and exclusive benefit,” he adds.
Investing in safer roads – continuous education for drivers
Keeping these challenges in mind and understanding that driving on Scandinavian routes is a whole different experience from driving somewhere in Europe, drivers are provided with the practical part of the courses. “Even though, when speaking about driving in Scandinavia, the priority is given to experienced drivers due to the many challenges on the road, every new driver has to go through a driving course with an instructor from Volvo in the passenger seat. The route takes about four hours and goes through heavy hills and rugged roads to get the drivers prepared for winter conditions as best as we can,” shares Hopen.
This example presents that large responsible logistics companies like Girteka Group understand how much impact the truck drivers bring to road safety in general. Therefore initiatives like Girteka’s Drivers’ Academy, where every driver is provided with essential knowledge and the opportunity for continuous growth and improvement of their skills by participating in different training programs, are essential for the future development of professional drivers.
With the “Safe Driving in Winter” being part of many training programs, truck drivers are provided with the essential knowledge needed for them to work in Scandinavian countries. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg, as Girteka Group continuously focuses on the improvement of truck drivers’ knowledge and skills: the company has already provided trainings for over 15,000 of its drivers throughout 2023 alone.
In conclusion, the pressing issue of safety in road transport, particularly in the challenging winter conditions of Europe, cannot be overstated. Initiatives like the partnership between Volvo and Thermomax, and the comprehensive training provided by Girteka’s Drivers’ Academy, are commendable steps towards enhancing the safety and skills of truck drivers. These efforts not only contribute to the reduction of the risk of accidents and ensure timely cargo delivery, but they also play a crucial role in making the profession of truck driving more attractive.
Given the current shortage of skilled drivers, as highlighted in the IRU’s report, enhancing driver safety and competence is a strategic move. It is not just about ensuring that goods reach their destinations safely; it is about caring for those who drive our economy forward, literally. As we continue to navigate the complexities of road transport in winter, let us remember that every measure taken to improve safety is also a step towards a more sustainable, responsible, and attractive logistics sector. The future of road transport depends not only on the roads we build and the vehicles we deploy, but fundamentally on the men and women who steer them through snow, ice, and storms, towards a safer and more efficient tomorrow.
 Becker, N., Rust, H.W. & Ulbrich, U. Weather impacts on various types of road crashes: a quantitative analysis using generalized additive models. Eur. Transp. Res. Rev. 14, 37 (2022); https://etrr.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s12544-022-00561-2