Winter is just around the corner, which means it’s time to prepare your truck fleet for freezing weather. While Texas isn’t known for its harsh winters, it occasionally gets hit by major snowstorms. In addition, many local trucking companies have interstate routes that take drivers through the snowiest regions of the country. That makes sense because over 70% of the U.S. population lives in areas that receive at least 5 inches of snow each year.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, at least 23% of all traffic delays are caused by inclement weather, and over 50% of weather-related backups are due to snow and ice. These delays cost the trucking industry 32.6 billion vehicle hours annually.
Don’t wait until the last minute to get your trucks ready for the cold. Here are some tips for winterizing your fleet and avoiding costly weather-related breakdowns.
A vehicle is only as safe as its tires. Keep your fleet moving with regular tire monitoring and maintenance. Inspect tires every 30,000 miles for signs of tread wear, nails, bulges, cuts or other types of damage. Also, check tire pressure at least once a month. In cold weather, tires can lose around 2 pounds per square inch for every 10-degree drop in temperature. For improved traction in snow and ice, consider outfitting your fleet with winter tires. Vehicles should use snow chains in extreme conditions.
Monitor the battery
Freezing temperatures can sap the power from vehicle batteries, leaving drivers without the amps they need to start cold engines. To prevent this problem, test each vehicle’s battery for signs of failure or corrosion. Replace any battery that has lost its charge or is more than 3 years old.
Switch to synthetic oil
If your fleet uses conventional oil during the summer, it’s best to switch to synthetic during the winter months. Compared to crude oil, synthetic oil flows better in extreme cold and provides enhanced engine wear protection. Change the oil in the fall to ensure your trucks are ready for any unexpected storms or sudden temperature drops.
Maintain the air system
Regularly inspect all fleet air systems for signs of moisture. Drain water from air tanks to prevent freezing in brake lines or other systems. If excessive moisture is present, it may be necessary to replace the air filters or air dryer.
Inspect the coolant system
Coolant and antifreeze are critical to a vehicle’s performance. Not only do they stop water from boiling or freezing in the engine and radiator, but they also help lubricate motor parts and prevent corrosion. Test each truck’s cooling system for leaks, and replace dirty or clogged coolant filters. Make sure all trucks have the appropriate type and amount of antifreeze before they hit the road.
Bring the heat
If cold weather is wreaking havoc on your fleet’s schedule, use heating devices to get back on track. Equipment such as engine block heaters, oil pan heaters, fuel warmers and battery warmers can counteract freezing temperatures and help prevent a number of weather-related performance issues.
Examine the exterior
Don’t forget to keep your truck exteriors clean and well-maintained. A thorough winter fleet service should include an inspection of each vehicle’s windshield, windshield wipers, mirrors, headlights and taillights. Replace all faulty or broken parts. Note serious scratches, dents and body paint issues and schedule them for repair.
Provide winter driving kits
Each truck in your fleet should carry a winter kit to keep drivers safe in the event of an emergency. The kit should include flashlights, a cell phone and charger, emergency phone numbers, first aid supplies, blankets, extra clothing, water and non-perishable food. These items can be lifesavers if a truck breaks down on the side of the road or a driver gets stuck in a storm-related traffic jam.
Prepare drivers for winter conditions
Make sure all fleet drivers understand how to safely drive and maintain their vehicles in winter weather. For example, drivers need to travel at slower speeds and allow extra braking distance in slippery conditions. They should also regularly clear snow and ice from their truck’s sensors and cameras to ensure the safety systems operate correctly.