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4 simple steps to building a fleet snowbelt policy

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

By: Dan Cappe, Strategic Consulting, Element Fleet Management

More than 116,000 people are injured and over 1,300 are killed on snowy, slushy or icy pavement every winter in the U.S. If your fleet operates within “Snowbelt” regions, you have particular challenges when it comes to developing vehicle selection and winter safety policies. To overcome these challenges, it’s important to implement a customized policy for specific geographical regions.

Snowbelt policy - Element Fleet Management

The “Snowbelt” primarily refers to northern or higher elevation parts of the U.S. that experience a high volume and frequency of snow. As a rule of thumb, you should provide Snowbelt options to drivers in areas with 40 or more inches of annual snowfall.

Consider these key factors for your fleet snowbelt policy:

1. Prioritize safety

  • Engage leadership – Before creating or revising your current snowbelt plan, reach out to your business leaders to emphasize your safety concerns and gather support. 
  • Manage expectations – When engaging with leadership or other business stakeholders, be transparent about your intentions:
  • Driver safety is your number one priority
  • Prepare a timeline for securing approval and allow enough time to create a plan that works for your company so that your drivers understand and act accordingly before the next winter season.

2. Identify eligible drivers

  • Work from home – If you have drivers living Snowbelt regions, identity those that can work remotely in bad weather. Providing a Snowbelt-compatible vehicle to this type of driver could be an unnecessary expense.
  • Location – Pinpoint your drivers’ locations by ZIP-code, city, state and/or territory, and identify eligibility for a Snowbelt vehicle based on volume and frequency of annual snowfall within each area.
  • Exception guidelines – Develop a process for drivers to submit exception requests to be included as “snowbelt eligible.” Examine these cases individually to ensure best safety practice.
  • Job function – Align your policy to job function and geography. This may be the best solution for employees whose jobs are deemed as “essential” and who frequently travel through snow covered terrain.

More flexible options

  • Allow employees to apply for a Snowbelt-compatible vehicle, along with management approval for additional oversight and cost control.
  • Consider a personal use charge (or increasing existing PUC) for drivers who request a Snowbelt-compatible vehicle. This will encourage your driver to weigh the necessity of a specialized vehicle or to offset the increased cost to the business.

3. Compare selector options

There are several vehicle implementation options, each with different benefits, drawbacks and associated costs. Here are some examples, weighing the pros and cons of common snowbelt-compatible vehicle features:

Vehicle feature



AWD/4WD ($$$)

  • Increased traction control
  • Increased resale amount
  • Low-range gearing added benefit (4WD only)
  • Performs best in light to moderate snow amounts
  • Heavier - Reduced MPG (1 MPG or more)
  • Higher capital cost
  • No added benefit for cornering
  • No added benefit for braking
  • False sense of driver security

Winter (snow) tires ($$)

  • Enhanced braking performance
  • Useful for all weather conditions - not just snow
  • Better vehicle control & added driver confidence
  • Increased performance on FWD and AWD/4WD
  • Added cost of purchasing additional set of tires
  • Wear faster when driving on pavement
  • Need to be changed annually with regular tires (additional cost)
  • Less traction in dry conditions
  • Storage and installation/removal costs

All-season tires ($)

  • Enhanced traction in wet and snowy conditions
  • Last longer than winter tires
  • Common in factory ordering process
  • Wide variety and lowest cost among all options
  • No storage or maintenance costs associated with installing or removing tires


  • Less traction when braking and cornering on wet roads
  • as snow tires
  • Wear faster than regular tires - replace more often
  • Potential added cost to purchase and/or change
  • with regular tires
  • Not applicable for all, especially in heavy
  • snowfall areas

4. Train your drivers

Through education and skill development, driver training can help protect both drivers and fleet vehicle assets. Choose from several flexible training options:

  • Web-based training – Online training modules offer an easy and convenient way for drivers to complete required courses.
  • Classroom – In-person sessions led by professional instructors allow you to train many drivers at once, customized to your company’s requirements.
  • Simulator – Virtual training allows the flexibility of multiple, customized driving scenarios, in a risk-free environment.
  • Behind the wheel – A hands-on approach to real-life driving scenarios, in a controlled environment taught by certified professionals.

5. Assess financial impact

  • Know your budget – Set and secure a budget, which will help make decisions easier when faced with multiple scenarios. Consider quantifying the total cost of an accident, including non-fleet related expenses such as insurance, liability, workers comp., revenue loss, etc.
  • Compare scenarios – Run a cost/benefit analysis of potential scenarios and compare the financial impact of your decision. Element can help you by providing pricing, analysis, benchmarking and overall expertise and will include variables that are sometimes overlooked.
  • Obtain approval – Prepare your findings and present to your stakeholders.

The costs saved by reducing risk and improving driver safety can offset the investment in a comprehensive Snowbelt policy.

For more information, download our Whitepaper or contact us at

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