EXTREME CONDITIONS FOR A TUCK DRIVER
Increased planning and awareness are required while driving in extreme weather. You and your car need to be in top shape. You will learn about the difficulties involved in driving a tractor-trailer in difficult circumstances in this chapter.
Adverse weather conditions, such as driving in the winter, rain, and fog, call for additional vehicle and driver preparedness. Reduced traction lengthens stopping distances and impairs steering and control of the vehicle. Visibility loss makes it harder for you to see risks.
Being ready is essential for working safely in snow, ice, and very low temperatures since conditions may change fast in the winter. Pay particular attention to the issues mentioned below in addition to doing routine vehicle inspections.
Coolant level and antifreeze concentration —The cooling system should be full and the antifreeze level should be enough. The performance of the engine, as well as the heater and defroster systems of the car, may all be impacted by low coolant levels. A tester designed for this purpose may be used to check the concentration of antifreeze.
Defrosting and heating equipment — Make sure the vehicle defrosters and heater are working and that you know how to operate this equipment. Also check the heaters for the mirrors and fuel tank(s).
Windshield wipers and washers — Make sure the wiper blades are in good condition. The wiper blades need to press against the window hard enough to wipe the windshield clean. This is important in keeping snow off of the windshield. Also make sure the windshield washer works and that there’s an appropriate type and amount of washer ﬂuid (ﬂuid that will not freeze in cold weather) in the reservoir. Also check the reservoir for cracks or other damage.
Tires — Check tire tread depth. The drive tires must provide enough traction to operate on wet pavement and snow. The steering tires must have enough traction to steer the vehicle. The front wheels must have a tread depth of at least 4⁄32 inch on every major groove to be legal. Other wheels have to have a tread depth of at least 2⁄32 inch to be legal. Also check tire mount- ing and inﬂation.
Tire chains — You may be faced with conditions which require the use of chains (per state or local law). Prepare for this possibility by carrying the proper size and number of chains as well as extra cross-links. Check the chains for broken hooks, worn or broken cross-links, and bent or broken side chains. Make sure chain slack adjusters are also available if you need them.
Brakes — The brakes need to simultaneously exert an equivalent amount of pressure. Check the adjustment and fill in any gaps. When adjusting your brakes in very cold weather, be cautious. They could freeze together if there is a lot of moisture on them, making it difficult for you to remove them. To prevent this, softly use the brakes as you leave the freeway or go through the parking lot. This will assist remove moisture and reheat the brakes.
Maintain air tanks as dry as possible as well. Daily tank draining for the trailer and tractor. The brakes on the car may freeze if there is moisture in the airlines. Check the operation of any other moisture-control devices your car may have, such as alcohol evaporators and spitter valves.
Lights and reﬂectors — It is essential that lights and reflectors be visible during bad weather. Check the car's lights and reflectors often to make sure they're free of debris (such as dirt, snow, ice, and road salt). Your field of vision and how well other drivers can see your vehicle in poor weather are both significantly impacted by the condition of your lights and reflectors.
Windows and mirrors — Use the windshield defroster, a snow brush, or both, to clear the windshield of any ice, snow, and debris.
Hand holds, steps, and deck plates — Clear any ice and snow from the handholds, stairs, and deck plates to lower the risk of slipping and falling.
Winterfront — Check to see that it is not shut too firmly. The engine may overheat as a result of this. Note that not all kinds of engines should use winter fronts. For details, see the owner's handbook for your car.
Exposed wiring and air lines — Remove ice and snow from wiring and air lines. At or below zero degrees, plastic air lines can become brittle and can brake very easily. Snow and ice build-up can cause them to sag and possibly get snagged on the tractor, trailer, or the tires.
Fuel tank — If poor weather is anticipated, make sure the gasoline tank is full before setting off and maintained topped up often. As water may freeze in gasoline lines and filters, this will aid in preventing it from getting into the fuel. To avoid running out of gasoline and being trapped in a hazardous scenario, this is also a wise precaution. Even if it's not the stop you had in mind, it's a good idea to constantly be aware of where your next fuel stop is.
Exhaust system — Loose Your vehicle may have a carbon monoxide leak due to Loose exhaust system connections. Poisonous carbon monoxide exists. If you are exposed to it, it may kill you, particularly if you are in a poorly ventilated space like a truck cab with the windows pulled up.
Coupling devices — Clear the area of any snow and ice before connecting. (If the grease is frozen at below-freezing conditions, the coupling device's jaws could not lock.) Make sure the fifth wheel is greased with winter-grade oil and double-check the locking mechanism. This will aid in preventing binding and assisting with steering on slick surfaces.
Interaxle differential lock (if vehicle has this) — Check the owner's handbook to ensure correct use.
Emergency equipment — You ought to have the following things in your car:
Jumper cables; and
Warning devices. Windshield scraper;
Additional windshield washer liquid;
As for your protection and safety, you should have the following items:
Medicine (as needed)
Gloves; Drinking water;
Extra clothes and blankets; and
Proper outerwear (heavy jacket, heavy coveralls).
Weather reports — Keep up with the most recent weather and driving conditions. For various locations around the nation, the National Weather Radio Service (162.4-162.55 MHz) transmits up-to-date weather reports. Additionally, several states provide online road reports and toll-free phone lines. Additionally, keep in touch with your patcher, as he or she may be able to provide current information from numerous sources.
Tire chain installation — Tire chains are designed to cling to the sides of the tire and provide traction on the tread. Traction may be increased by chains by up to 500%. They increase the traction on an incline when mounted on the drive wheels. They provide traction for downhill braking on trailer wheels. Chains lessen your chances of becoming trapped and assist keep your car on the road.
Chains work best when there is a lot of snow. They provide considerable stability but minimal traction benefit in light, dry snow. On glare ice, the majority of chains are useless.
Chains should be snug but not too tight when being installed. To avoid gouging or breaking, they are made to creep or move on the tires. Regular chain inspection and tightening are recommended to prevent slapping against the trailer or snagging on the suspension or fuel tank.
Use extreme caution when installing chains:
Pull well off the road (most areas that require chains have “chain-up” areas)
Park on a level surface
Work facing traffic
If you come across a car that is out of control, know where you're heading.
Watch your footing
Watch your own vehicle, making sure it doesn’t slide
Cold weather starting — Any sort of engine has a tougher time starting in cooler weather. The engine of your car may be started using a variety of tools.
Ether and ether-based ﬂuids — Using ether to assist with cold-weather car starting has both advantages and disadvantages. Ether has a relatively low flash point and is readily ignited at low temperatures, which is positive. On the negative side, if ether is used improperly or excessively, the engine may be harmed. Additionally, since it is extremely flammable, using it might be hazardous. A buildup of either might result in vapor lock, engine block cracking, or other severe internal damage. Stay away from cigarettes, lighters, and heaters if you accidentally drop any on your clothing, and change right away.
Ether and ether-based ﬂuids come in a variety of forms including: Capsules; Aerosol sprays; Pressurized cylinders; and Driver-controlled, automatic injection systems.
The manual use of capsules, aerosol sprays, and pressurized cylinders necessitate the positioning of ether next to (but not within) the air cleaner. Either the driver flips a switch inside the cab or the vehicle starts automatically injecting ether to activate the automated injection mechanism.
Use extra care if using any kind of ether to avoid mishaps and/or injuries.
Glow plugs — Glow plugs are electric heating components that warm the engine's intake air. For detailed operating instructions, refer to your vehicle's owner's handbook.
Preheaters — When your car is left parked for a long time, a preheater keeps the engine warm. The majority of truck tractors use an in-block preheater. The freeze plug holes in the bottom water jacket are where in-block heaters fit. Then, an electrical outlet is used to plug them in. The coolant is heated to 160°F and circulated throughout the engine. By doing away with a warm-up, you may start using standard beginning techniques.
Battery box heaters, oil sump heaters, and fuel heaters are routinely added to coolant warmers in severely cold climates. For appropriate functioning, refer to your vehicle's owner's handbook and the maintenance team.
If your engine doesn’t start — If your vehicle's engine won't start even with starting aids. As you rev your engine, keep an eye on the exhaust stack to make sure your car is receiving enough gasoline. If no vapor or smoke is coming from the engine, gasoline may not be getting to it. Avoid turning the engine over since doing so will drain the battery. Check for ice blockage in the fuel tank and gasoline lines. Examine the fuel tank vent as well.
Never give the starter more than 15 seconds to turn. There may be an electrical system issue if the engine is receiving gasoline but isn't starting. Look for loose connections, cable fractures, dampness on cables, and terminal corrosion on the battery.
If your car has an air starter, you'll need air to get it going. If there isn't any air, you'll need to replenish it with air from a tractor or an air compressor. For specific procedures, see the owner's handbook of the vehicle.
Operating hazards — There are two main hazards when driving in adverse winter weather conditions, reduced visibility and reduced traction.
Reduced visibility — Your visibility is diminished in all directions when snow and ice accumulate on your car's lights, windows, and mirrors (front, side, and rear). The defroster and windshield wipers in your car will keep the glass clear and clean if they're working correctly. You will have to pause, however, to wipe the side windows and mirrors. If you can't see well in all directions, never drive.
The lights and reflectors on your car may accumulate snow, ice, and grime, as was stated previously in this chapter. This lessens both your visibility and other drivers' ability to see your car. Clean all lights and reflectors regularly.
Visibility might be significantly affected by snow and ice. In inclement weather, slow down to account for poor visibility. Drive only when you can see; do not keep going. Stop at the closest safe area off the road until the situation becomes better.
Reduced traction — The degree of traction on various surfaces varies. For instance, a surface coated in snow or ice will only have 20% of the grip that the same surface has when it's wet.
A vehicle's drive wheels will quickly spin on slippery conditions since there will be less grip. Your ability to control the car is hampered as a result. Increased traction and improved mobility are achieved with adequate driving wheel weight, tire pressure, and tread.
To accelerate, turn, and brake, you need traction. Increasing vehicle speed needs additional traction. You need to slow down if traction is bad.
You may need to slow down by a quarter or more while driving on a wet surface. For instance, if you typically drive at 65 mph on a certain length of the road, you will need to slow down to 45 to 48 mph.
On packed snow, you should generally travel at roughly half your typical pace. If your average pace is 65 mph, you should reduce it to roughly 30-32 mph.
Reduce your speed to around one-third of it while driving on ice. Once again, if you're moving at 65 mph, slow down to 18 or 20 mph.
One of the riskiest driving situations is black ice since most motorists are unaware of it until it is too late. When temperatures drop quickly and remain close to the freezing point (32oF), black ice develops. Any wetness on the road freezes creating a slippery, slick surface that is practically unnoticeable.
Pay close attention to the mist that other cars may throw on chilly, rainy days. Black ice may be developing if the spray abruptly ceases.
The most common places for black ice to form include:
Dips in the road where water can collect and freeze;
The shadows cast by hills, trees, buildings, and embankments;
The lower side of banked curves.
Watch out for rain that becomes freezing rain as the temperature drops. A difference in the sound of your tires hitting the ground should be heard. Be alert for abrupt disappearances of other cars' spray. Check your exterior mirror for ice by feeling the front of it. Watch for ice buildup on the vehicle's antenna.
Skidding and jackkniﬁng — The three main reasons for skidding and jackknifing are excessive acceleration, excessive braking, and excessive turning.
Over acceleration — Excessive acceleration causes the drive wheels to spin by applying too much power.
Over braking — Wheels lock up when braking too forcefully for the circumstances.
Over steering - Sudden braking When the steering wheel is cranked too quickly, the front wheels, driving tires, trailer, and/or swing-out of the trailer may all happen.
Slippery surfaces — Slippery terrain When driving on slick surfaces, be cautious and slow down. Stop in a secure location and wait for the situation to improve if the road is too slick to travel. When driving on potentially slick terrain, adopt these precautions:
Don’t hurry. Give yourself plenty of time to get a feel for the road.
Make turns as gently as possible.
Don't apply more force while braking.
Don’t use the engine brake or speed retarder.
Never pump antilock brakes (if your vehicle is so equipped).
Don’t pass slower vehicles unless necessary.
Move steadily and slowly. Avoid having to accelerate and decelerate.
Drive more slowly through bends and avoid braking.
Be aware that when temperatures climb to the point where the ice starts to melt, roadways become slick. Air and road temperatures are subject to considerable fluctuations.
Don’t drive next to other vehicles.
Keep a larger following distance.
If you see a traffic jam ahead, slow down or stop until it has cleared.
Try to anticipate stops so you can slow down gradually.
Wet brakes — When traveling through torrential downpours or large bodies of water, your car's brakes will get wet. Brakes with water in them may be less effective, apply unevenly, or grip. Lack of braking ability, wheel lock-ups, tugging to one side or the other, and jackknifing of the vehicle might result from this (if pulling a trailer).
If at all possible, avoid driving across significant puddles or through flowing water. If you can't stop it, take these actions:
Place the vehicle transmission in a low gear.
Increase engine speed (rpm).
Drive through the lake with little braking pressure.
Maintain gentle braking pressure for a few distances after leaving the water. The brakes get hot and dry out as a result. If it's safe to do so, do a test stop. Apply the brakes to test their functionality after looking behind you to make sure nobody is following. Reapply mild brake pressure and drive a short distance if they aren't functioning properly. Avoid applying excessive braking pressure when accelerating. The brake drums and linings may overheat as a result of this.
Freeing a stuck vehicle — The easiest method to deal with unsticking a vehicle is to prevent it from becoming stuck in the first place. Avoiding soft shoulders, thick snow, muddy roadways, and icy/slippery conditions is the easiest method to avoid becoming stuck.
If you do get stuck, don’t panic, and take the following steps:
Refrain from swaying and whirling the drive wheels. The car gets further buried as a result. When driving on ice or snow, spinning wheels warm the surfaces under the tires, lowering grip even more.
Apply traction tools. From in front of the wheels, dig out. In the path of the wheels, scatter gravel or sand. Place slack chains in front of the tires of the vehicle.
When you're ready to attempt pulling away, turn the steering wheel to face forward. Wait until the car is going before turning the wheels.
Start with very little power in the second or third gear. This prevents the wheels from turning and results in a more even distribution of force.
Quickly and gently increase the speed. At the first hint of spinning or sliding, ease off. If you let the wheels keep turning, you can dig in more deeply or have a spin out.
Towing — You may need to contact a tow truck if all other attempts to liberate your car fail. Keep in mind that even if towing is required, you are still in charge of your vehicle and contents. The issue must remain in your control, not that of the tow truck driver. Control the process. Stop the operation and fix the issue if the tow truck operator performs anything improperly or unsafely.
Following these procedures, the tow chain or cable should be attached to the car:
Ensure there is enough chain or cable to prevent your car from lurching toward the tow truck after it has been released.
When connecting, slide the chain or cable through the bumper's hole without attaching it to the bumper.
Join the chain or cable to a cross member or solid area of the frame. (Some cars have tow hooks that stick out from the frame.) Be cautious not to wrap the chain over the axle's spring shackles or steering tie-rod.
Decide on a process to be followed before towing. Understand which way the tow truck will pull and which way you should maneuver your car. Decide on a signal that you can both hear or see that will indicate when to halt (if you have difficulties) or when your rig is clear. Additionally, be sure that no onlookers are in the way in case a chain or cable breaks.
Start the towing process by carefully accelerating the tractor so that the wheels begin to revolve. Once the tow truck driver has hauled you clear, tell him to stop moving forward right away. Tractor-trailer brakes should be used. This stops your car from hitting the tow truck in the back.
Breakdowns — Although they may happen at any moment, bad weather increases the risk of a breakdown. Frostbite may be brought on by exposure to wind and cold. Snow that is blowing and drifting might be confusing. Stay in the taxi if your car breaks down in bad weather.
Wear additional layers of clothes to remain warm. Be careful while using your food and beverage supplies. You could spend some time trapped, depending on the weather and the volume of traffic on the route. Idle the engine if it is capable of doing so to keep the truck warm.
Unless it is required, don't attempt to walk for assistance. If you have to leave your car, write down when you did, where you were going, and when you expect you'll be back on the steering wheel.
Rain and Fog
Driving in the rain or the fog poses comparable risks to driving in the cold. However, particular circumstances are specific to working in the rain or fog.
Rain — When it first begins to rain, the roads become slick. The muck, grease, and oil that coat the surface of the road are mixed with the rain as it starts to fall. The pavement is very sticky until further rain breaks down and washes away this treacherous combination. The duration of this illness ranges from a few minutes to a few hours.
Reduce your vehicle's speed while driving in the rain, leave extra distance between you and other cars, and give yourself more time to stop.
A car may hydroplane if there is standing water on the road due to heavy rain. A vehicle has a higher likelihood of hydroplaning the quicker it is moving through standing water. This is because traction can only exist when a vehicle's tires are in contact with the pavement. The tires lose traction if they are moving along a wall of water. You start to lose steering control of your car as a result of this lack of traction.
Slowing down is the greatest method to avoid hydroplaning.
Driving in the rain also raises questions about visibility. Use "way of light" driving whenever possible. Take advantage of the reflections that damp roads provide.
Make that the defroster is working correctly and that the windshield wipers, windshield washers, and windshield washer fluid are all in good condition.
Fog — The biggest issue with foggy weather is the decreased visibility. Slowing down is essential. If you can see six vehicle lengths ahead, a safe speed in the fog may be between 20 and 30 mph. Slow down to 10-15 mph if you can only see two vehicle lengths in front of you. It's usually preferable to use your judgment when determining how fast to drive in foggy circumstances.
In the fog, low-beam headlights need to be employed. They fulfill two functions. Low-beam headlights make your car visible to other drivers as well as assist you in seeing the road.
In the fog, high-beam headlights should never be utilized. When using high-beam headlights, fog tends to reflect more light at you than it does onto the road because of the water droplets that make up the fog.
To remove the tiny mist of the fog from the windshield, use the wipers.
Find a safe spot to halt if visibility is really bad and wait there until it does.
Snow, ice, and fog are often the first things that spring to mind when you think of difficult driving conditions. Another harsh driving situation that might put extra strain on you and your car is excessive heat.
The following vehicle parts need special attention while doing pre-trip and on-the-road checks in warm weather.
1. Tires — When traveling in warm weather, tires should be checked every two hours or 100 miles. Verify tire inflation and mounting.
With rising temperatures, air pressure rises. To lower pressure, don't let the air out of the tire. As the tire cools, the air pressure will decrease. If you take the air out of the tire, and it cools down, the pressure will be incorrect.
Never put a hot tire on your car's spare rack if you need to replace it before it has cooled down. A tire fire may also start if a heated tire is placed on a spare tire rack.
2. Engine oil — The oil in the engine keeps it cool and oiled. Check the quantity of oil in the engine of your car. Additionally, make sure the oil temperature gauge is operating within the correct range when driving the car.
3. Engine coolant — Before starting the engine, make sure the cooling system has adequate water and antifreeze.
Once you're moving, periodically check the coolant or water temperature indicator to make sure it stays within the acceptable range. Stop as soon as it's safe to do so if the gauge rises beyond the maximum safe temperature before attempting to diagnose the issue. Neglecting a high reading might result in an engine fire or failure.
Use When adding coolant to the engine, proceed with extreme caution. If you do not follow established, safe procedures, you might suffer serious burns from the engine's intense heat.
Shut off the engine.
Wait until it has cooled.
Use thick gloves or a thick cloth to protect your hands.
Release pressure by turning the radiator cap slowly to the ﬁrst stop. This releases the pressure seal.
When all pressure has been released, press on the cap and turn it the rest of the way to remove it.
Visually check the coolant level, and add more if necessary.
Replace the cap and turn it all the way to the closed position.
4. Engine belts — Check belts for cracking and other signs of wear. Loose belts will not turn the water pump and/or fan properly, resulting in overheating.
5. Hoses — Check coolant hoses for cracks, breaks, or wear. A broken hose can lead to engine failure or an engine ﬁre.
General hot weather driving tips — In desert regions, even a little thunderstorm or light rain may seriously impair visibility. A road may rapidly flood in times of heavy rain. If you come across rain in a desert region, be cautious of shifting road conditions.
When driving in exceptionally hot weather, keep an eye out for leaking tar on the road. In these circumstances, tars or oils often rise to the surface of the road, creating slick areas.
Additionally, pay close attention to your car's tires. The probability of tire failure rises with increased vehicle speed because more heat is produced.
Breakdowns — Exposure to too much heat and sunshine is hazardous to you in addition to your car. Dehydration and/or sunstroke may result from prolonged exposure to heat and sunshine. Stay out of the sun if your car breaks down. Keep driving or wait in the shadow of your car for assistance.
Gravity has a significant impact on both upgrades and downgrades while driving in mountains. Because of this, your car's brakes must remain in excellent shape. If your car has air brakes, you should look for the following things:
Compressor maintaining full reservoir pressure;
Pressure reduction with the full application within limits;
Slack adjusters for full push rod travel, within speciﬁcations;
Audible air leaks, applied and released;
Drums for overheating; and
Trailer protection valve operation.
Upgrades — It is difficult to keep a consistent speed on upgrades since the effects of gravity lead all vehicles to slow down.
Which gear you choose to go safely on an upgrade depends on the steepness and length of the grade, the weight of the load on the vehicle, and other factors. Lower gear should be used if the hill is longer, steeper, or both, and if the weight is larger. If you choose a gear that is too high for the road, your car can overheat and stall.
As the car travels upward, the gauges should also be watched. All of the car's parts have to work harder while going uphill than when going downhill on a level road.
The engine produces greater heat as a result of this increased labor. Pull over in a secure location and let the engine cool down if the gauges on the car show excessive temperatures, a drop in engine oil pressure, or anomalous readings for the temperatures of the water and exhaust gases.
On a multilane road, stay in the right lane while going uphill. Smaller, quicker cars will be able to pass securely as a result. Maintain your focus on the traffic in and around your car. Particularly to the left and back.
Downgrades — Gravity’s pull forces all vehicles to speed up on downgrades. To help combat the forces of gravity when traveling downhill, select:
- An appropriate speed;
- A low gear;
- Proper braking technique.
An adequate speed is slow enough to let a car's brakes stop it without causing them to overheat and wear out. The brakes will progressively fade until there is little to no stopping control if you have to consistently apply more pressure to the brakes to maintain the same stopping power.
When selecting an appropriate speed, consider the total weight of the vehicle and its cargo, the grade’s steepness and length, and weather and road conditions.
Similar to upgrades, keep to the right and let other cars pass. Observe any warning signs that may be present on the route. The signs could specify the largest vehicle that can be driven or the safest speed to handle the gradient.
The engine's braking action needs to be used as the main method of speed regulation. When the gearbox is in the lower ratios and the engine is running close to the regulated RPMs, the engine's braking impact is strongest.
A low gear should be selected in the gearbox before beginning to descend a gradient. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to downshift after a vehicle has reached a certain speed.
With a manual gearbox, the car could become stuck in neutral if you try to downshift. This may result in a car coasting downhill and losing all braking power, which can lead to very hazardous circumstances.
Automatic transmission damage and a loss of all braking power might result from forcing the gearbox into a lower gear.
How brakes can fail — Brakes may malfunction because heat is produced each time one is applied. This heat is produced by the friction between the brake pad and the braking drum or disc. Brakes may malfunction as a result of high heat brought on by hard braking.
To handle a vehicle effectively and safely, all brakes must be set up and working correctly.
A motorist may have little to no braking control if the brakes are overused and overheated as a result of certain brakes being out of adjustment.
Brake adjustment should be regularly inspected, just like all other vehicle parts, but it requires extra care while going downhill.
Braking technique — The following is the correct braking strategy for a vehicle moving in the right, low gear.
Identify a safe speed for the load and grade.
As soon as you reach that speed, slam on the brakes until you notice a noticeable deceleration.
Repetition of the first two steps when the vehicle's speed returns to or exceeds the safe speed.
When the vehicle’s speed increases back to or above the safe speed, repeat the ﬁrst two steps.
For instance, wait to engage the brakes until the car has reached its safe speed, which is 30 mph in this case. The car should then gradually slow down to 25 mph by using the brakes just firmly enough. You may let off the brakes after you reach 25 mph.
Escape ramps — On steep mountain descents, there are escape ramps. They are designed to aid in effectively halting a rogue vehicle. When a car's brakes fail, these ramps may potentially save lives. Escape ramps may be divided into four categories.
Gravity ramps — Gravity ramps are found on steep ascending grades.
They are constructed of a pea gravel surface with mounds of sand or gravel at the end of the ramp.
Sand piles — Sand piles have ridges or mounds that are high enough to drag a car's underside.
Arrester beds —Arrester beds have large masses of loose material (at least 18 inches deep), causing a vehicle to sink.
Ramp and arrester bed combinations — To decelerate a vehicle, this combination uses both loose surface material and lengthy slopes.
You have learned about the unique challenges of working in harsh environments in this chapter. This involves navigating mountain roads and coping with harsh weather (snow, ice, and heat).