Pre-Trip planning for safe summer truck driving

In 2020, IIHS reported that a total of 2,974 of 53,890 fatal crashes involving passenger vehicles were caused by distractions ranging from daydreaming and text-messaging to eating and rubbernecking. In 2019, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reported that least one driver-related factor was recorded for 33 percent of the large truck drivers in fatal crashes, compared to 53 percent of the passenger vehicle drivers in fatal crashes. With distractions from both car and commercial truck drivers, it’s no wonder why summertime is one of the most dangerous times of the year on the road. While National Safety Month is in June, safe driving practices is a year-round concern. Pre-trip inspections of certain truck parts are recommended to truckers to prepare them for summertime driving.

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Truck parts to check, replace, or consider for installation

Headlights

Incandescent, LED and halogen lights are the most popular types of lighting equipment on the market. LED lights are appealing to drivers because they allow for a wider scope of landscapes to see road signs, construction work and roaming wildlife. LEDs are also long-lasting. The glow from halogen lights resembles traditional lighting and is easier on the eyes for passing vehicles. These lights offer a bright front view of landscapes. They are energy-efficient and last approximately 500 hours.

Installation of lighting equipment is simple and can be done in less than an hour. While truck models vary, it usually begins with removing mounting screws that hold the headlight assembly in place and disconnecting the wires from the current headlight. Once these steps are complete, simply plug in the new headlight and screw the headlight into the housing.

Mirror

Checking mirrors for upgrades is recommended to increase truck driving safety. There are many types of mirrors on the market for blind spot coverage and some offer heating elements and built-in lights. Swapping mirrors typically requires removing the retaining clip that holds the mirror in place, unscrewing four screws and sliding off the cover. If using heated mirrors, be careful not to disturb the wires. Once all hardware and components are removed, truckers are ready to install new bushings, screws and mirror.

Windshield wipers

Windshield wipers are probably not on the top of fleet’s priority lists, but they should be. Summer marks the start of Hurricane Season with intense thunderstorms throughout areas along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico until late November. Wiper blades should be replaced every six months and take less than five minutes to install. Simply pull the wiper open and find the tab. Push it down and slide it back to release the wiper from the hook. Take the new wiper blade and slide it back on the hook until an audible click is heard. Repeat the process for the other wiper blade.

Air conditioning

Summer is the worst season for a failing air conditioning unit. Add compressors, condensers, evaporators, and smaller components to a pre-trip planning checklist. A blast of warm air, unpleasant odor or squealing noise are all warning signs of failing HVAC systems and are often caused by leaking refrigerant, environmental factors and broken or cracked parts.

Be sure to check underneath the truck for leaks and tighten loose fittings. If a leak cannot be detected, perform a dye test by applying a small amount of liquid to the refrigerant. This will help find determine if a leak is coming from hoses, O-rings, compressors, or evaporators. Check system sensors, expansion valves, and switches for possible air disturbances, as well.

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) technologies

There are four types of ADAS technologies for truckers to consider: Adaptive, Automated, Monitoring, and Warning. These systems can gauge other vehicles’ movements by measuring safety variables like angle and speed; assist with automatic braking; and offer real-time alerts that decrease the risk of accidents.

Proper training of these sensors and processing software are recommended for all truckers prior to the road.

Cameras

Cameras are a great way to monitor the operation and use of trucks. They can potentially assist with blind spot coverage and act as guides for backing into loading docks and monitoring clearance underneath awnings. According to JIT Truck Parts, black-and-white or colored camera systems come in several sizes; are waterproof; run on 12DVC of power; and may include integrated heating features to tackle cold weather operation. They can also be mounted virtually anywhere on the truck, as a perk.

CB Radios

Summer thunderstorms can cut-off cell phone signals leaving truckers without communication capabilities. Truckers turn to low-powered, short-range units called Citizen’s Band (CB) radios [with integrated Weatherband]. This type of radio system offers 40 channels and built-in NOAA channel alerts to bring drivers the latest updates on tornado warnings, hurricanes, road delays, and closures. Note: A CB antenna is needed to receive a stronger signal.

Warning triangles

Triangle kits are helpful safety accessories to have in emergency situations. When on the side of the road, placing reflective warning triangles around the truck’s location will alert passing vehicles of a problem. In fact, they are also required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act to be in three locations within 10 minutes of stopping. The emergency triangles’ locations are based on the type of roadway and where the truck is stopped.

Final thought

For any part repairs or replacements, be sure to refer to the specific part’s installation instructions, and the truck operator’s manual, for more information and safety requirements.

Jennifer Smith is an e-Commerce Digital Content Specialist at JIT Truck Parts in Highland Park, IL.

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