Get Winter Ready – Drivers
Written by: Robert McKenzie, Operations and Driver Qualifications.
As we are coming into late fall, the weather is starting to get colder outside. We are now in the season that can see temps drop below the freezing mark regularly and continually. As most experienced drivers know, there are several precautions that we take to keep our trucks (and ourselves) running in top condition throughout the winter.
The first thing that we must consider as the temps drop is keeping the fuel in the tractor from thickening and turning to gel. Diesel does not react well to cold temps and must be stabilized (i.e. kept in liquid form) using various additives in the winter. Anti-gel is recommended anytime the outside temp will be below freezing (32 degrees F) for more than 24 hrs straight, and absolutely must be used if temps are at or below 0 degrees F. The most common brands of anti-gel additive are Howe’s and Power Service. These brands can be purchased at all the major truck-stop chains and are very simple to use. When you are ready to fuel your truck, simply pour the recommended amount of anti-gel additive in each of your tanks then fill them up with diesel. The truck-stops in the northern part of the country claim that they pre-treat their fuel in the winter months, but I would not bet my life or health on it. Always add your own anti-gel so that you know that your fuel is correctly treated.
Next, water in the air lines can be very dangerous in the wintertime. Make sure that you always drain your air tanks every day (this should be done regardless of the season) to prevent moisture build-up in the air and brake lines. This moisture will turn to ice when the temp drops below freezing. Ice in the air lines can cause blockages which will prevent your brakes from functioning correctly. There are air-system additives that you can add to your lines, but in my experience, rubbing alcohol works just as well. With your tractor running, unhook your blue air line from the trailer and pour in a small amount of rubbing alcohol (about 1oz). Then hook the blue air line back up and pump your brakes a few times. This will distribute the rubbing alcohol thru the system and melt any ice deposits that have built up.
Finally, as a personal precaution, make sure that you always carry enough warm clothes, blankets, and food/water to survive up to 48 hrs with no heat. If the worst-case scenario were to happen and you were to break down or wreck in a secluded area, you need to be able to keep yourself warm and fed until help can arrive (remember, if the truck won’t start, you have no heat or power supply). It’s a good idea to keep clothing that can be layered and at least one heavy coat, along with 2-3 heavy blankets, in the truck with you during the winter months. It only takes a few minutes of exposure in sub-freezing temps for hypothermia to set in. Even if your cell phone is working and you can call for help, if road conditions are very bad it could still take several hours for help to arrive.
Please stay safe out there and all of us on the operations team are always willing to help you in any way that we can.