Keep Truck Brakes Working in the Winter | Trucking Safety

The winter temperatures and elements are hard on any vehicle. The extra moisture in the air and on the roads wreaks havoc on every system in your rig. When water gets into the air brake system, it can cause corrosion and freezing, taking your rig out of commission for hours, maybe even days. The salt and chemicals used to keep roads free of ice and snow can get into the air brakes and cause corrosion and damage.

Frozen truck brakes and winter damage are preventable, though. How can you keep air brakes working in winter? You’ll need to take steps to winterize your rig and watch for damage. Preventative maintenance is key.

A Clean Air Supply

Whether you have foundation drum or air disc brakes, you should drain the air tanks of moisture and contaminants. When the air temperature shifts 30 degrees Fahrenheit or more, moisture can accumulate. If you experience this shift in a 24-hour period, you should check the air system after driving for another week.

Winterizing Drum Brake Components

Check the chamber housings for damage and corrosion. Corrosion attracts corrosive materials, leading to failure of the housing. Check that the chamber’s dust plug is correctly installed. Lubrication is an enemy of corrosion. All components in the drum brake need to be properly lubricated, the automatic slack adjusters, clevis pin connection points, cam tubes, shafts and bushings.

Any worn rubber seals can cause air to escape and moisture to invade the system. Get your rig checked before you drive in the colder months. Remember that it gets much colder in the mountains as early as September and can stay colder until May or even June, depending on the elevation. Always consider your route and the conditions under which you be driving.

Air Disc Brakes Winterization

Visually inspect the ADBs. Look for cuts and tears in the boots. A small tear allows moisture and contaminants to enter the caliper, causing it to corrode. Replace if necessary. Make sure the pads move freely in the carrier. If not, you’ll need to remove them, clean the carrier surface with a wire brush and then replace the pads. Check the thickness of the pads and rotors. Minimum rotor thickness is 37mm; friction thickness is 2mm or greater.

Replace Cartridges

If you drive in harsh or cold climates, replace the air dryer cartridge before the season. This prevents moisture from getting into the system and causing frozen truck brakes. Make sure to replace it with the right cartridge. An oil-coalescing cartridge needs to be replaced with a similar product to maintain the quality of the air.

Examine the air dryer’s purge valve. Look for signs of corrosion or an accumulation of grit. Clean it or replace it if necessary. This simple maintenance item can prevent malfunction during the harsher winter weather and save you time and headaches down the road.

What About Using Alcohol?

A traditional solution to treating frozen brakes is to add alcohol. Most experts agree that while this may solve your immediate problem, it will lead to long-term issues. It can damage the seals. Some air brake systems have an alcohol evaporator, which does keep air lines and reservoirs free of ice. However, you should only use approved products in this component. Check with your mechanic before trying to unfreeze air brakes using an alcohol product. It will be frustrating to be stuck, but if your vehicle is down for maintenance later, you haven’t saved that much time.

Driving Tips for Winter Safety

If you’re driving with air brakes in the winter, you have to keep the system dry and the pressure up. Make sure to allow even more stopping distance on wet and slippery roads than you would on dry roads. If your system doesn’t have antilock brakes, pump lightly on the brakes to maintain steering control.

Always check your truck before heading out on the road. Make sure the minimum operating pressure is no less than 100 psi for a truck with an air-brake system. It should not take longer than 2 minutes for air pressure to rise from 85 psi to 100 psi.

If you’re inexperienced in driving under winter conditions, check with your company to see if they have some training or another driver who can work with you to let you gain confidence in handling the rig in snow, ice, sleet and/extreme cold. It’s important to know how to handle mountains, country roads and city byways under wet and cold conditions. While it can be humbling to ask for help, if it saves your life, your truck and the lives of others on the road, that should be your concern.

Check all the components of the air brake system regularly throughout the winter to ensure proper performance. Poor maintenance can result in senseless deaths and injuries. It’s important to stay on top of brake maintenance all year long, but even more important in winter months. Take good care of your truck, and it will take care of you.

Ways to Reduce Distractions While You Drive

Tips for Reducing Distractions and Boosting Safety While You Drive

News feeds across the country are filled with stories of distracted driving, and while the statistics are alarming, the consequences are often devastating. In fact, according to the NHTSA, over 3,400 people were killed in 2015 while almost 400,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that a result of distracted driving. Trucks and other commercial vehicles are not immune or exempt from being included in these startling statistics, making it important for professional drivers to understand not only the dangers, but ways that they can avoid distracted driving.

Know what Distracted Driving Really Is

Though there may be many different opinions about what things qualify as distracted driving, the true definition is pretty simple.  Any item or activity that takes a driver’s focus and attention away from driving can qualify as distracted driving. So really, eating, drinking, having an intense conversation with a passenger or reaching for something dropped on the floor could prove to be a hazardous distraction.

Ways to Reduce Distraction

When drivers attempt to cut any and all distractions and focus on the road, results could be equally disastrous. There must be ways for drivers to keep from falling asleep or becoming hypnotized by the long miles they are driving. Following are 5 solutions for distracted driving that can really help commercial drivers.

  1. Invest in Technology – Though many forms of distracted driving are dangerous, there is one form that is actually illegal. In 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) implemented a ban on texting while driving a commercial vehicle. In January of 2012, this ban was expanded to include holding a cell phone for any reason while driving. Currently, drivers who are found breaking the law could face a fine as high as $2,750 and may not be allowed to drive for up to 120 days.

With today’s hands-free technology, professional drivers are still able to use cell phones to call family and friends, get updates to loading or unloading locations or even check the weather.  However, they must have new enough technology so that they can do these types of activities without ever needing to touch their cell phone. There are plenty of options, both wired and wireless that drivers can purchase. Many prefer a current generation Bluetooth headset that has noise cancelling capability so that the party on the other end of the call will not have to listen to the truck noise in the background.

  1. Plan Ahead – Just as a driver needs to plan which route he or she will take to deliver a load, they should also take time to plan for things they will to listen to, snack on or use while they are on the road. Having a written list of options taped to the dash can make choices simple and keep more attention on the road ahead. There are many blogs and magazines that offer helpful advice on how to stay safe without getting overly bored.
  2. Easy Reach Rule – One good rule of thumb for commercial drivers is that they should never make a grab for anything in their truck that is not within easy reach. In essence, if the driver has to stretch away from the steering wheel any further than a simple arm extension, they are at risk. When drivers are willing to pull off the side of an exit or take a break in a rest area to grab an item that is outside of easy reaching distance, they are helping everyone on the roads to travel more safely
  3. Driver Education – Educating newer drivers about the risks and consequences of distracted driving can also help them make more thoughtful choices on the road. This type of training course should always cover the types of activities that can end up being too distracting, safer ways of staying awake and avoiding boredom, and a real look at fines, accidents and lifelong injuries that can happen when drivers are distracted. It can also be beneficial for drivers to be trained in how to spot drivers of other vehicles who may be distracted, so they will be able to avoid the hazards presented.
  4. Keep it Tidy–It is not an easy task for a driver who spends many hours in the truck to keep things neat and clean. However, neatness does cut down on possible distractions. An investment in small drawers, cupboards or shelves where items can be held is an additional investment in safety, as those items will be much less likely to slide around the interior of the sleeper or cab.

Invest in Safety

By taking time for planning, professional drivers can help to increase safety on each road they travel by decreasing the number of accidents caused by driving distractions. Companies that are willing to take time to educate their drivers only add to safety levels for each individual who is also out on the road.

Commercial Trucking Tips: Avoiding Common Parking Lot Accidents

When you drive trucks for a living, you are constantly aware of the ways that other drivers on the road contribute to possible hazards that you will have to cope with. It’s just part of the territory, and developing a good sense of the pitfalls that come with the open road is just part of the job. What many truck drivers lose sight of, even the experienced ones, is how common parking lot accidents can be and how much extra time and trouble they can cause. It’s easy to overlook the dangers of parking lots, too, because the speeds are lower and traffic tends to be lighter than it is on the road. That shouldn’t lull you into letting your guard down, though. Instead, follow through with these tips for avoiding common parking lot accidents so that you can make sure your vigilance on the road has total follow-through.

Parking Lot Accidents Are Widespread

The first step toward grappling with the dangers in parking lots is realizing just how common parking lot accidents can be. Recent research has found that two-thirds of all trucking accidents involve a collision with a stationary object in a parking lot. That is an incredible number, and it doesn’t even include the number of accidents that involve slow-moving vehicles, pedestrians, or slips and falls when the driver is loading and unloading. On the one hand, these numbers show just how important it is to maintain vigilance in parking lots. On the other hand, they also speak to what a great job most drivers do with vigilance on the roadways. To get a better idea about how to put a stop to parking lot accidents, it helps to look at common accident types.

Basic Types of Parking Lot Accidents

Once you understand the types of accidents, it becomes easier to understand how a few basic trucking tips can help you prevent them all. That’s because the various types of accidents you might encounter all have a few common root causes that you can address with time and patience. Here are the types of accidents you might encounter in a parking lot:

  • Collisions with stationary or even fixed objects
  • Vehicle collisions
  • Intersection crashes
  • Slipping and falling
  • Liftgate injuries
  • Entry and exit injuries

What’s important to realize is that while there are several kinds of parking lot accidents, they can be easily grouped into those involving the truck and those involving only the driver.

Avoiding Accidents Involving the Vehicle

When you are looking to make sure you are safer on the road, your attention and diligence are the main attributes you need to work on. Avoiding distractions is about more than just making sure you have a clear view, though. It also means making sure you have a clear mind. A large number of parking lot accidents happen because drivers are working on other pieces of their job while driving. Whether it’s calling ahead to provide your next 30-minute delivery notification, prepping paperwork, or attempting to rebalance your priorities as you consider the rest of the day’s deliveries, you need to make sure you are putting it aside until you are actually done driving the truck. Otherwise, you are engaging with distractions instead of focusing on the road.

It is not easy to avoid these distractions, because your schedule is likely to be tight and delivery times stacked on top of one another, but if you have an accident, it will do more than delay your next delivery. It could throw your entire schedule for the day off, and it could also lead to consequences with your employer if the accident is determined to be your fault; OR EVEN WORSE. That’s why it is important to make sure you focus on the drive through the ENTIRE drive, even in parking lots at the end of the trip.

Trucking Tips for Avoiding Injuries Outside the Vehicle

The other major accident type, accidents that involve the driver but not the truck, can be harder to prevent. That’s because sometimes, these accidents are due to mechanical failures or to the state of the facilities you are unloading at. In those cases, it is important to have a combination of diligence to avoid any foreseeable accidents and great insurance coverage for when you can’t possibly foresee the accident.

That means you will need to find a carrier who offers you all the coverage your trucking business needs. The coverage needs to include vehicle collision coverage, but they also need to include:

  • Cargo liability coverage
  • Workers compensation and other employee coverage
  • Vehicle damage coverage

Only by making sure you have complete protection from an insurance provider like Western Truck Insurance Services at  www.TruckInsure.com  can you be sure your business is protected in the case of accidents of any kind, from the loading dock to the open road and back again, and considering all the possible pitfalls in between.

Is Your Rig Ready for Winter? 7 Ways to Prepare for Plummeting Temperatures

It’s getting chilly out there. Is your truck ready? Take some time today to prep your truck for the cooler, potentially freezing, temperatures that are surely ahead. A little preparation today can save you from a whole lot of trouble later.

When Temperatures Drop, Coolant’s a Must

Anti-freeze, or coolant, provides vital protection to your truck during freezing weather. Getting your coolant system in order is one of the most important winter maintenance preps you’ll do all year. Check for leaks and low coolant levels at every PM. Use high quality coolant, obtained from a reputable source. This is one area where you don’t want to compromise on quality.

Don’t Get Stuck in the Snow- Check Your Chains

Are your chains ready to go should you need them? Many drivers take their chains off the truck and put them into storage during warm summer months, but now that the temperatures are dropping, it’s time to bring them back. Before loading them up, give them a quick check to make sure you have everything you need and that all parts are in good repair.

It’s also prime time to brush up on chain laws. Many drivers prefer to sit and wait when chain whether hits, but some states require that you carry them, needed or not. Knowing the laws in the states where you travel most can save you from expensive tickets and violations.

If you do use chains, remove them as soon as they aren’t needed. Chains that are left on too long can rip up your tires and cause road damage. Remember, chains are intended to get you out of trouble, not into it. If it is too snowy to continue, stop and wait for the weather to clear.

Are Your Tires Ready for Winter?

Tire pressure drops in cold weather. It’s time to check pressure on all your tires again. It is often most effective to check your tire pressure during your pre-trip inspection, before you do any driving. Valve caps help to ensure that ice doesn’t form in the valve core, leading to a slow pressure leak. If you’re missing any caps, replace them.

Tire pressure isn’t the only tire check you should do this winter. If you regularly drive in icy, snowy areas, consider special tires with tread designed for winter driving.

Scrape Less- Add Some De-Icer to Windshield Fluid

Check your washer fluid levels and add de-icer if needed. This will help to defrost your windshield and will keep your fluid jug from freezing solid and bursting. While you’re at it, check your windshield wipers too.

It’s Hard Being a Battery in the Winter

Cold temperatures make it more difficult for your battery to charge, often resulting in lower battery levels. Cleaning, checking, and testing the battery should be a regular part of your PM (preventative maintenance) program. If your battery is over three years old, you may want to replace it this winter.

If your truck has an APU, you can expect reduced service life from your batteries, especially during cold weather. The APU is constantly pulling power from the battery which can drain battery life.

Stock Your Truck, Just in Case

Do you have cold weather essentials on hand, just in case? You should have a heavy coat, a blanket, and some food on hand in your truck. Although we hope you’re never stranded out in the cold, you’ll be happy to have a few emergency supplies on hand. These supplies could very well save your life some day.

Is your truck ready for winter? What are your favorite ways to prepare for dropping temperatures?