- ADAC TruckService provides tips on how to avoid unplanned downtime and expensive surprises.
- New winter tyre regulation for trucks.
Germany’s streets are becoming slippery. Leaves and wet conditions make roads dangerously smooth, especially in autumn, and snow is already starting to fall at higher altitudes. After the summerlike temperatures of recent days, it is also easy to underestimate the risks caused by the fluctuations in the weather that are typical at this time of year. “Fitting the right tyres is crucial in winter. If you are now getting your fleet ready for the colder months, you need to comply with the new winter tyre regulation for trucks,” advises Sigmund Schichor, ADAC TruckService expert in breakdown prevention.
New winter tyre regulation
In icy, snowy or muddy conditions, winter tyres must be fitted on all permanently driven drive axles of vehicles over 3.5 tonnes. What is new is that M+S (mud and snow) tyres will be replaced in the future by alpine tyres, which are recognisable by their mountain symbol with a snowflake. The production date is crucial for determining whether an M+S tyre can be used as a winter tyre. M+S tyres manufactured after 1 January 2018 may no longer be used as winter tyres. However, for M+S tyres that are still produced this year, there is a transitional period until 30 September 2024.
The law states that the tread depth should be 1.6 millimetres, but ADAC TruckService recommends fitting winter tyres with a minimum tread depth of 4 millimetres and at least 6 millimetres on the drive axle. It is also advisable to inspect snow chains before the onset of winter and practise fitting them.
In addition to the tread depth, checking the tyre pressure is also important for good grip. If it is too high or too low, the tread will get clogged quicker, the braking distance will be longer and the vehicle will slide more easily on the road. The tyres will also wear out faster and need to be replaced more frequently.
The fines are 60 euros for using tyres that are not suitable for the conditions, 80 euros for causing an obstruction and 120 euros for causing an accident, plus one penalty point on your driving licence. When driving abroad, you should make sure you know what the regulations are regarding winter tyres and snow chains in the countries along your route. These regulations vary widely throughout Europe. Failure to comply with national winter tyre regulations can result in heavy penalties, travel bans, removal of driving licence and fines up to 5,000 euros.
Typical vehicle faults in winter:
battery, lights and brakes. Classic examples of vehicle faults in winter for trucks are weak batteries, headlight/taillight defects and frozen brake valves. Among the most frequent reasons for calls to ADAC TruckService during the colder months are breakdowns caused by batteries that have gone flat due to the cold temperatures. Many on-board components that consume electricity and the increased effort needed to start a cold diesel engine also put a strain on the battery. It is usually clear on the first really cold day whether the battery still has enough power. If the acid density is right, even extremely low temperatures will not affect the battery.
To prevent the brakes failing, the antifreeze in the braking system must be checked and the drain valves on the compressed air tanks proactively operated.
All connecting components made of metal are susceptible to corrosion caused by moisture and salt. Cables with abrasion, battery connection points and trailer sockets should be regularly checked and thoroughly cleaned as a preventative measure. Drivers should keep a sharp eye out for splintered plastic or porous seals through which moisture can enter the headlamps and result in a short circuit.
Obviously, it is important to adapt your driving appropriately in icy and snowy conditions. Where there is poor visibility (less than 50 metres) due to fog, snow or rain, vehicles with a permissible gross weight of more than 7.5 tonnes are not allowed to overtake. Violating this rule will result in a fine of 120 euros and one penalty point on your licence.
Drivers should pay particular attention specifically when driving near the edges of forests and fields in the morning and evening. Wild animals may be crossing here in autumn. If you encounter wild animals, under no circumstances flash your headlamps. Dim them and sound your horn. If a collision cannot be avoided, a controlled impact is better than an evasive manoeuvre. Otherwise, particularly at high speeds, there is a risk that the truck will swerve and collide with oncoming traffic or a tree.
In addition, the air conditioning system should be switched on now and then even in winter to keep the seals supple and ensure that it will work properly when the weather warms up. Treating the rubber door seals with deer tallow prevents the doors from freezing up. Keep a warm blanket inside the vehicle, put the door lock de-icer in your hand baggage and fill up with petrol in good time as soon as the fuel gauge indicates that the tank is a quarter full.
If you do break down despite your winter checks, the ADAC TruckService emergency call centre is available 24 hours a day on 0800 5248000.
ADAC TruckService winter checklist:
1. Change to winter tyres: 1.6 mm is the legal minimum tread depth; at least 4 to 6 mm is better.
2. Check air pressure: The right air pressure ensures grip and prevents the tread clogging.
3. Inspect snow chains: Treat with rust remover or diesel if required and practise fitting them.
4. Test battery power and battery connection points.
5. Ensure radiator frost protection down to -30 degrees.
6. Check antifreeze in the braking system and proactively operate the drain valves on the compressed air tanks.
7. Fill windscreen washing system with screenwash (and take a refill with you).
8. Check the housing, seals and bulbs of headlamps and position lamps.
9. Check trailer sockets for damage.
10. Check condition of underside of truck.
11. Treat door seals with deer tallow to prevent them freezing up.
12. Put the door lock de-icer in your hand baggage (not in the vehicle).
13. Keep a cloth to hand to clean lamps, mirrors and windows.
14. Take warm clothing and a blanket.
15. Switch the air conditioning on now and then even in winter so that seals do not dry out.