Driving a big rig across the country comes with its own set of challenges and risks. However, few are as frustrating as a vehicle breakdown.
If you’re long-hauling, this kind of incident is inevitable, even if your truck is in good shape. It’s best to prepare yourself and your rig for when it does happen.
Here are a few tips to remember.
1. Pull Over
Drivers who have experienced a big rig breakdown in the past know how important it is to pull over. Parking your vehicle on the side of the road will let regular traffic keep flowing and prevent further damages from a car crashing into it.
When you notice an issue, immediately begin to slow down and ease off the road. Once you’ve stopped the rig, set up flare or reflective triangles in the rear to alert other drivers of your predicament. You might also tip your hood open to signal that you won’t be moving anytime soon and everyone should drive around you.
2. Stay Safe
Cars cause more than 80% of semi-truck accidents in the U.S. Of course, once you’re off the road, your truck might be safer. However, inattentive drivers can still hit you and your truck. Therefore, you must take all necessary precautions and focus on safety while you’re on the side of the road.
Minimize time spent outside of your vehicle and stay alert when you get out to inspect your rig. Don’t make any sudden moves or step near moving traffic. Inspecting your truck isn’t worth your life, so if traffic is heavy, it may be best to stay in the vehicle until help arrives.
3. Use Your Tool Kit
If you deem the situation safe, you may get out of your vehicle and inspect it for issues. Many breakdowns result from faulty sending units and emission equipment, which often require professional repairs. However, air leaks, bad tires, worn-out brakes and other problems can also halt your journey.
When they do, it’s important to have a toolkit on hand just in case you’re able to fix these issues on your own. Your kit should contain a wrench set, vice grips, duct tape, bulbs, fuses and other essentials. While you’re at it, pack a sleeping bag, an extra set of clothes and a supply of dry food. You’ll be happy to have these extra items if you can’t resolve the issue yourself and have to wait for help.
4. Get a Tow
If you can’t determine the cause of your breakdown or would rather have a professional handle it, consider getting a tow. Heavy-duty towing services can easily transport big rigs like dump trucks, tractor-trailers, semi-trucks and fifth-wheel trailers to the repair shop. Some towing companies even offer breakdown services and accident recovery so you only have to make one call when you break down.
Will your big rig be in the shop for a while? Heavy-duty towing services can also transport your cargo to its original destination. Most use flatbed equipment to move heavy machinery and materials with ease, so you don’t have to worry about a breakdown setting you back a day during a long haul.
5. Know Where To Go
Before you even began your long drive, you should have spent some time researching your route. Ensure there are repair facilities and safe stopping points in case you experience mechanical failure. You can often limp your rig into a rest station if there’s one close by, so you don’t have to wait for help on a highway shoulder.
You must also know who to call if you need heavy duty service. In most cases, your dispatcher can point you to a nearby repair shop. However, if you’re not a company driver, you should know where to go if you need help.
6. Be Calm
One of the best things you can do during a big rig breakdown is remain calm. Even when you’re stuck on the side of the road and aren’t sure what to do, keeping your cool will allow you to approach the problem with a level head and determine the next best step. In other words, it can help you cope with emergencies by making you feel more in control of the situation.
Staying calm can also increase your alertness and prevent any further damages or injuries. Instead of hyper-focusing on the breakdown, you’ll be more aware of other dangers like oncoming traffic and inclement weather.
Maintaining Your Rig
The only thing better than handling a breakdown well is avoiding one in the first place. Establish a solid preventative maintenance program to keep your big rig running smoothly all day, every day. Inspect your rig before and after your trip and remember to complete a vehicle check at each stop along the way.
Check the brakes and tire pressure, test the coolant system, change air and fuel filters and add lubricant if necessary. These preventative measures will minimize your risk of experiencing a breakdown and ensure you reach your destination with time to spare.