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101519 driver tire breakdowns.jpg Photo: ATBS

Smart tips for preventing breakdowns

American Truck Business Services (ATBS) is in the business of helping truckers operate profitably. It recently came out with some tips to help prevent truck breakdowns. The tips are common sense things that fleets and owner-operators can do to ensure their trucks are in good operating condition. I am happy to share them with you along with a few of my own.

  • Make sure your drivers are performing complete pre- and post-trip inspections. These are the first line of defense for finding a developing problem. All too often pre-trips are done in a half-hearted manner, or not at all. Make sure you set up a system that makes it easy for drivers to do these important inspections and be certain to track compliance. Also instruct technicians to take driver complaints seriously and to resolve any issues that are reported on DVIRs and to communicate to the driver on all things which were not completed.  Safety items should always be done first.
  • Tire inspection is part of a pre-trip inspection, but did you know that problems with tires account for 25% of roadside breakdowns? Underinflated tires are a big problem throughout the industry so preach checking inflation pressure before each and every trip. ATBS reminds us that tires lose about one psi of pressure each month and seasonal temperature changes result in a one psi drop for every 10 degrees in air temperature. In addition to checking pressure, make sure drivers look for tread damage, cracks and bald spots. These are major warning signs of pending problems, according to ATBS. The tread depth is always extremely important. Tread depths should be consistent across the axle (within 2/32’s). Consideration should be given to pulling tires 1/32 before required by DOT. This could avoid a breakdown and preserve a casing which can be recapped.
  • Brake issues are the next problem that take trucks out of service, so make sure they are checked on an ongoing basis. ATBS says to look for water and contamination in the air supply, oil passing from the compressor, external corrosion, air pressure leaks, and reduced foundation brake performance. You should also be checking brake system pressure and timing imbalance. Drivers should be educated on the proper way to connect and disconnect (and store) air lines, a major source of air leaks.
  • Next turn to the electrical system by checking the condition of the battery as well as wiring and cable connections. Make sure connections are tight and free from corrosion.
  • Check proper oil and engine coolant levels. ATBS says it is best to stick to the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance intervals when it comes to oil and coolant.
  • Monitor breakdowns between PMs. This measures the quality of the PMs being performed. Depending on the type of breakdowns, it may also be an early indicator that it might be time to retire the vehicle. 

While it is not possible to avoid all breakdowns, taking a few simple steps can help you prevent a good number of them. Remember, a high percentage of road breakdowns also give rise to a towing event.

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