It's that time of year, yet again - time to winterize your rig. And while the below is by no means a comprehensive list, it is a good way to start your winterization plan.
One of the few things typically taken care of for you is your fuel blend. You already know that your truck can be harder to start in winter, and to combat this, fuels are blended with 1D and 2D types of diesel for faster ignition. In spite of that, you'll still want to check the cetane number (CN). The higher the better in winter, as it's a measure of how quickly the fuel ignites. That said, let's get to the list you do have to worry about:
Hoses, radiator and belts - In the warm months, rubber and plastic might work perfectly well, but cold weather will test all of these components. Before it gets cold, check for small cracks, rub marks or bulges that can lead to a failure down the line. It may not happen today, but parts will fail at the least convenient moment, and keep you from making money. Change them if they look even the slightest bit suspicious.
Anti-freeze - Have your anti-freeze tested before the winter sets in. You need it to be at the best possible freeze point for the entire season. If you don't remember the last time you had it changed, it's probably time.
Batteries - When was the last time you had your batteries tested? If your batteries are between 4 and 6 years old, you need to consider replacing them before the season even begins. If they're younger than that, you still need to have them tested - under load.
Engine components - Check to see what type of equipment you have to make your rig start easier in the colder climates. If you have a block heater, intake pre-heats or glow plugs; make sure they are functioning correctly before you really need them.
Anti-gelling additives - As the name implies, this keeps your fuel from gelling in the cold temperatures. Use them.
Fuel/water separator - keeping water out of your fuel is always a good idea, but even more critical in the winter when it can freeze a fuel line. If you don't have one, get a fuel water separator for your rig. Minimize the amount of condensation that can collect by fuelling late in the day, if possible.
Air Dryers - Your break systems are designed to use dry air. In freezing temperatures, water/fluids can create an ice blockage and prevent your breaks from functioning. Air dryers help prevent that from happening. The air dryer sits between compressor and the wet tank, and should have the filter changed before the winter begins. Don't forget to drain your reservoirs periodically, as well.
Heating - When you check the in-cab heat systems, or open the valve - in some older trucks; change your in-cab filter, as well. You wouldn't believe what gets stuck in those filters over time. This contributes to slow cabin air, and can make it less comfortable for you in the colder climates.
Wiring - Like your battery, wiring is critically important to monitor. Rubbing, and exposure are two things that are tough on your wiring. Check all the areas you can for damage. Anywhere wiring touches another component is where you need to heavily scrutinize.
Sometimes you can do all of the above and still run into trouble on the road. You need prepare for this, as well. Keep extra blankets, water, food and survival supplies in your truck at all times. It takes up some precious room, but when you need it, it's well worth the space.
Keep rolling. Keep safe.
It’s coming to a trucking business near you. You’ve felt it creeping up on you for any number of months, but now it seems like it’s right in your face. The economic upturn is going to make your life a wreck if you’re not prepared.
So what’s the big deal about the economic upturn in the trucking industry? Remember those days when you had to cut back, and scrape for loads? Remember all the maintenance you had to let go until you could afford it, or the equipment you didn’t buy because it didn’t make sense at the time? You lost money then, and now you’ll lose more money if you’re not prepared to take advantage of the opportunities available.
What’s going to hold you back? Unless you kept and maintained all of your equipment and drivers from 2010, you’re probably going to be lacking the resources to tackle all the loads you can. The good news is that you’re not the only one. The bad news is that you’ve got some catching up to do. Fortunately, everyone else is in the middle of getting caught up, as well. The longer you put it off, the less revenue you’re going to be bringing in later.
Where to start? Maintenance and updates are always the beginning. Bring your existing equipment up to spec, and update how you track your maintenance, your drivers and loads. Without proper maintenance, your fleet dies a lingering, costly death. Some states won’t even let you across their border without certain equipment, so there’s real incentive to make that maintenance happen.
Without proper tracking of your field assets, you have no way to determine where your potentially blossoming profits are spent. Additionally, before you can even consider new equipment, you have to have a way to make sure your existing equipment is being used in the most efficient manner possible. Adding equipment doesn’t justadd capacity, it adds maintenance and man hours.
Update your equipment
The industry, and electronics have improved dramatically since 2010. Electronic logging makes tracking HOS easier, as well as determining when your drivers need to rest. Other computer and phone applications make it easier to find the cheapest diesel in an area, certified CAT scales and rest stops on the road. Look into these if you’re not using them. Additionally, look for an expense tracking software suite. You need to be able to drill down to any expense, anywhere in your fleet.
It’s cold and absurdly early on this Las Vegas morning, but 30+ people couldn't be happier. Not just because it’s Vegas, but because East Coast Truck and Trailer Sales is hosting their Richard Petty Driving Experience again. If you’ve never been, the Richard Petty Driving Experience is a thrill ride you control - starting at 100+ mph!
Every year, the folks at ECTTS ask a number of their friends and customers to come out for the driving experience of a lifetime. This is a chance to drive a car as fast as you can – without any fear whatsoever of a ticket. In fact, the faster the better! So much so, we keep track of the stats.
The day starts with a facility overview of Las Vegas Motor Speedway. There’s roughly 1,500 acres to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, consisting of over 10 tracks. There’s the 1/2 mile World of Outlaws dirt track, the quarter mile NHRA drag racing facility known as “The Strip” and the 3/8 mile “Bullring”, which is the home track of NASCAR superstars Kurt and Kyle Busch as well as Brendan Gaughan – just to name a few.
But before you’re allowed to put a 600+ HP car through its paces, you have to go through safety and instruction and in-car/on-track training. This isn’t just a formality if you’re driving these beasts, this is absolutely necessary. You need to know how the brute you’re going to be doing your best to control will handle in a curve, or “out of the groove.” You’ll hear from the instructors/drivers just what you’re going to feel, and at what speed. They know these finely-tuned monsters; they drive them every day.
Now it’s your turn at the wheel; right? Well, first you’ll be taken on a ride-along to get a feel for the track, and experience the car “at speed.” You get to see what it feels like to take a curve as fast as possible without slamming into a wall. Then you get to feel the acceleration push you into the seat – when you’re already doing over 100 mph! You’ll amusedly remember when you used to get a thrill punching the accelerator on the family sedan to pass a sluggish truck. And this is just the instructional phase.
“OK, this should be easy”, you convince yourself, as you climb into the driver’s seat. What you don’t understand – until you try it for yourself, is that the instructor made it look easy because of their experience. For you, getting this race car up to something even close to 130 mph is taking some work. Not that the car won’t do it, but because you’re having a tough time getting up the nerve to go much faster. Way too soon, this thrill ride is over, but you get a chance to see just how much bravado you had. After it’s all over, you get a packet that includes a time sheet with a breakdown of every lap you drove on the track.
Finally, at the end of the day, ECTTS holds a dinner for their customers, friends, and employees. The food’s good, but the stories and laughter are even better. Let’s face it, half the fun of this type of outing is comparing how you did with the rest of the guests. The only problem lies with the inevitable request to see the hard copy of your exploits, to confirm those “enhanced” tales of the track. Chris Kelly, one of our customers, posted this year’s top speed at 141 mph! We’ll keep the lowest speed to ourselves, so as to keep the embarrassment to a minimum. As we said earlier, we do keep track of the stats.
You’re 25 miles out of the truck stop; settling into the long haul, and then the regen warning light comes on - again!You know you just did a parked regeneration to clear the diesel particulate filter yesterday, and you’ve been driving this rig at speed today, so shouldn’t the filter be clean? Well, probably not. Here’s why:
• Unless you’re running a disposable filter system, which are a must in the mining industry and some off-road equipment, the DPF is probably still clogged, but not with soot. The DPF works by trapping soot and other particulates in a network of cells before releasing the smaller gasses through the pores in the filter structure (usually cordierite or silicon carbide). The DPF, like any filter, eventually gets clogged with this material. Unlike other filters, this filter can usually be easily cleared – either while you’re on the road, or parked, by simply heating the filter to the point where the soot burns off to become gasses that pass through the filter. The problem arises when other particles besides soot become trapped in the filter. While hydrocarbons burn, metals and other contaminates from oils in the exhaust don’t burn off at the temperatures used for regeneration, so you end up with a clogged filter – even though you’ve just done yet another regen.
• Why does this happen? The heat from the regen can cause the metal particles to simply fuse into solid masses (sintering), and like the metals, the non-soot particles aren’t going to burn off either. In some cases the filter itself is damaged by the heat being created by the regen. As regeneration happens at temperatures around 850 to 1100 degrees Fahrenheit, and damage happens to some filters at 1200 degrees, the range between clean and damaged can be fairly narrow.
• Sometimes known as de-ashing, the filter cleaning process begins with an inspection, and then moves through the steps of testing, pneumatic cleaning, thermal regeneration (about 12 hours) and a final air flow test. At the end of the cleaning the air flow test will tell whether it passes for continued use, or needs to be replaced. How often you regen, vs. letting your filter compact with particulates and ash, can greatly affect the usable life of your filter. Similarly, having your filter removed and cleaned regularly increases its lifetime, so this step should be an important part of your regular maintenance schedule.
• Finally, this is not a do-it-yourself job you want to tackle. Unless you have the proper equipment, and knowledge, it will just end up being a very expensive lesson in what not to do yourself. Dealerships and service centers nationwide offer DPF cleaning services; take advantage of it on a regular basis to keep your filter and engine operating at its best.
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