December 19, 2022

How to winter-proof your pre-trips

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Ice presents many ways of putting you at risk

It may be cold outside, perhaps bone-chilling in your neck of the woods, but that’s no excuse to skimp on your pre-trip inspections.

Reliance Partners Vice President of Safety Brian Runnels encourages truckers to brave the elements and go above what’s required of your pre-trips this winter to check for ice-related issues that could freeze you in your tracks if not addressed.

“I know it’s cold and it’s not fun to be out there in those conditions, but get out there and do your pre-trip,” Runnels said.

With snow and ice in the picture, Runnels suggests adding a few other steps to your pre-trip inspection.

First and foremost, start every day by checking the weather report — it’s best to know before you go. A quick look at your apps for weather and traffic conditions can save you from a world of trouble if conditions are subpar.

Runnels notes that other preliminary factors to consider with each pre-trip check include having the right winter clothes and gear as well as a decent food supply.

Once these factors are taken care of, it’s time to perform your walk-around. Remember, the bare minimum won’t cut it in freezing temperatures.

Let’s start where ice will cause the most issues — the windshield. It’s susceptible to freezing unless proper precautions are taken. For starters, don’t forget to make use of your heater and defroster settings.

Drivers can take things a step further with winter-specific wiper blades. The added benefit of these blades is that they have a boot over the mechanical arms of the wiper that prevents ice buildup. Runnels also suggests switching out your washer fluid for one that contains a deicer mix. This is because when temperatures start to plummet, regular wiper fluid can easily freeze.

But when dealing with ice, maintaining optimal visibility may still require a bit of handiwork. Every driver should have an ice scraper on hand, not only for the windshield and your steps but for the lighting systems as well.

With the advent of heatless LED bulbs, Runnels said lights today are more susceptible to ice buildup than in the days of the red-hot fluorescent bulb.

“The old filament light bulbs used to be able to burn through the snow and you’d still be able to see your lights. Now with LEDs not giving off any heat, those lights get covered up and you can no longer see your turn signals and brake lights,” said Runnels, noting that this especially happens when the wheels kick up snow behind the trailer.

Remember that ice also can threaten more than just visibility. For instance, you don’t want water in the air tanks during wintry conditions, so you will want to drain them quite frequently this time of year.

“If moisture gets in those airlines, they’ll freeze,” Runnels said. “And with your brakes and so many other [truck components] being air controlled, if those lines freeze up, you’re kind of dead in the water.”

Another thing Runnels said to check is the air lines underneath the trailer. In fact, a buildup of snow or ice can weigh them down to the point where they’re touching the road.

So, while winter-proofing your truck and trailer adds quite a few steps to your pre-trip, remember the additional time invested before hitting the road is time saved from the side of the road — or worse, overturned in a frigid environment.

Breaking down is one thing, but breaking down in sub-zero conditions is another level of inconvenience, Runnels warned.

Other precautions like chaining your tires can prove to be quite beneficial. Runnels said even little things like painting a bright yellow line on the sides of your trailer tires can serve as a great visual aid to see if they are spinning.

“We’re coming into this bad weather time of year, and it’s just in everybody’s best interest to really pay attention to their equipment and to the weather reports, give themselves some extra time and just be extra safe out there,” he said.