Don’t fall victim to truck downtime this autumn

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Updated Aug 13, 2021
headlamp on a blue semitruck
With shorter days ahead beginning Sept. 22 (the Fall Equinox), truck lighting will be even more important.

Every season comes with its own set of challenges that fleets face on the open road.

With longer nights and shorter days ahead beginning Sept. 22 (the Fall Equinox), drivers will need to focus their attention on how they can stay safe while driving during the cooler autumn months when temperatures begin to drop, running wildlife are abundant and roads are slick with wet leaves.

Let the light be your guide

The need for higher visibility increases in the fall months as the days close sooner for truck drivers on the road. Since operational lighting equipment is required from sunset to sunrise, early fall is a good time to check it for possible replacement. Fleets that avoid fixing and maintaining their headlights, marker lights and clearance lights can get pulled over for lighting violations that carry hefty court fines and demerit points against driving records. A defective headlight or taillight alone slaps 2 to 4 points on CDL licenses in most states.

LED and halogen lights are two of the most common types of truck lights, but both come with advantages and disadvantages. When it comes to brightness, LED lights reign supreme above traditional incandescent lights and halogen lights. LEDs use clusters of diodes to perform and help drivers see a wider, clearer scope of landscapes. The blue-white optics allow drivers to easily spot running wildlife and better see signage and road instabilities.

However, LED lights are expensive, and the brightness factor can be distracting for other drivers. It is also hard to detect when LED lights go out. For the time being, there is no violation standard for LED lighting on headlights since the lights can still be used even with missing diodes – if they are seen from the required 500 feet distance, as required in most states.

When it comes to glow, halogen lights share the same attributes as traditional lighting making them less of an eyesore for other drivers. Halogen bulbs last approximately 500 hours and are DOT and SAE approved – a standard for on-road driving safety.

While they are energy efficient, sealed halogen lights only focus on what is in front of trucks rather than side-to-side views offered from LED lights. This could lead to accidents from crossing animals and other vehicles. The headlights also get foggy over time due to weather exposure making them dimmer and less useful.

When it is time to replace truck lights, explore your options while keeping these pros and cons in mind.

Fallen leaves and slippery surfaces

Leaves are just as much of a driving hazard as ice. As they fall, leaves become slippery on roadways and blur traffic lines and pavement markings. While motorists should slow down and use extra caution on wet roads, truckers cannot (and should not) rely on others to do the right thing. Therefore, truckers are advised to keep their distance from passing vehicles and make sure their undercarriage system is in good shape (which you might have already done during August’s Brake Safety Week).

Make sure air braking systems are performing as expected and replace spring brakes and other components as needed since these truck parts help apply parking and emergency brakes. Because leaves can cover potholes and other dips in the road, fleets should inspect and repair their shock absorbers to avoid unexpected lane shifts and potential collisions.

Resume HVAC systems

While you may not want the A/C running on full blast, you should keep the compressor running to remove air moisture and to prevent windows from fogging up. Take note to check for leaks and cracks in your HVAC system and manage refrigerant levels while inspecting valves, orifice tubes and filters. And remember, turning the fan on high won’t get the truck to warm up quicker. Instead, get the truck in gear to kick the fan into a higher speed.

Overheating engines and drivers were the theme in summertime, and while fall is a welcoming change preparing now for the changing season will ensure that trucks move forward free from violations and downtime.

Jennifer Smith is an e-commerce digital content specialist for JIT Truck Parts in Highland Park, Illinois.