Chief Warrant Officer 4 Marc Assumpcao
U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center
Fort Rucker, Ala.
Some consider a properly maintained and safely operated Army combat vehicle or Army motor vehicle the Army’s first line of defense. Getting to the fight with all the necessary equipment is critical. If Soldiers don’t have a way to travel, the unit is less capable of achieving its mission, putting forces on the front line at risk. Cold weather can add another layer of complexity to already challenging conditions for vehicle crews — especially in theater — so it’s vital Leaders and Soldiers focus on preventive maintenance checks and services to keep their equipment fully mission capable and safe on the road.
When performing maintenance checks, it’s imperative operators or crews follow maintenance standards published in the PMCS tables of the -10 technical manuals. The preventive maintenance checks guidelines listed in TMs help identify potential failures of subcomponents that can cause a main system to fail and result in damage to equipment and injury or death to personnel. Improperly inspected equipment can fail and degrade the unit’s readiness.
First-line supervisors are vital in establishing and maintaining effective PMCS programs and ensuring their Soldiers drive in accordance with published standards. Attention to detail is important for both Leaders and Soldiers throughout the year, but driving in wintry conditions can be particularly dangerous. Using properly maintained equipment and following safe driving practices can help prevent accidents and save lives, so be prepared to beat the cold.
Tips for maintaining and driving ACVs and AMVs during winter include:
•Perform PMCS before, during and after vehicle operations.
•Ensure windshield wipers are serviceable and the rubber lip is not torn.
•Check the windshield-washer fluid reservoir regularly and refill as necessary. Debris from winter roads can be especially grimy.
•Ensure the vehicle battery is fully charged and in good condition.
•Check the lights to make sure all are operating properly. Brush off snow from all headlights and taillights and use low beams so the vehicle is more visible to other drivers.
•Check tires and chains and train your crews how to install snow tires. Inspect tires regularly, checking tread depth and tire pressure.
•When planning for operations in adverse weather conditions, add additional time to travel.
•Check road conditions along the entire route and know the difference between conditions. Road conditions might start out as GREEN or AMBER but be RED further along.
•Take it slow! You’ll need additional time and stopping distance on icy roads. Drivers should adjust the following distance between their vehicle and the vehicle in front of them on ice-covered surfaces.
•Apply your brakes early to allow enough time for stopping. If your vehicle is equipped with anti-lock brakes, simply press the pedal down and hold it. In vehicles without anti-lock brakes, gently pump the pedal to bring the vehicle to a stop without skidding.
•Stay alert. Other drivers may fail to use their headlights, reduce their speed or adhere to other appropriate rules of the road.
Leaders need to be cognizant of the importance of PMCS and know it is a force multiplier. Poor PMCS can adversely affect Soldier morale and safety. Today’s Army is composed of highly motivated Soldiers. I believe Soldiers are committed to doing the right thing. When given guidance, proper resources and unyielding supervision, Soldiers can and will perform proper PMCS to keep our Army Safe and Army Strong.
DID YOU KNOW?
Army Regulation 750-1, Army Materiel Maintenance, states that operator or crew preventive maintenance checks and services are the foundation of the Army’s maintenance program. Having a strong, solid foundation enables the development of a long-lasting maintenance structure as well as safe posture of personnel. For more information on PMCS and other vehicle-related topics, check out the Driver’s Training Toolbox at https://safety.army.mil/drivertrainingtoolbox/.
Army Color Codes for Road Conditions
GREEN: Normal driving conditions exist on post. Roads are clear and dry.
AMBER: Cautionary driving conditions exist on post. Roads are very wet or have ice or snow sticking to overpasses, bridges or intersections.
RED: Hazardous driving conditions exist on post. Ice or snow is sticking to most road surfaces. Heavy precipitation and/or high winds may limit visibility. Government vehicles should only be used for mission-critical operations through coordination with DOL.
BLACK: Extremely hazardous conditions exist with life-threatening driving conditions. All roads are covered with ice or deep, unplowed snow. Heavy snowfall and/or high winds causing low visibility is occurring. Only police, fire, medical and DPW equipment may be dispatched. TMP buses may be dispatched to pick up Soldiers in the field who are exposed to extreme cold that could impact on life, health and safety. All other government vehicles will be restricted from movement unless authorized by DOL (mission critical). DPW workers will be allowed to enter the installation and conduct maintenance missions.
Editor’s note: The criteria for road conditions vary by installation. Be sure to check with your installation safety office for local road condition color codes.