Battling the Seasons

Around the northern hemisphere temperatures are dropping, and this puts fleets on alert. Fleet managers and maintenance professionals need to prepare their trucks for managing the unique issues and risks associated with colder temperatures.

The first step to being prepared for upcoming seasonal changes is to do just that, be prepared. Waiting till the last minute can be devastating for fleets, particularly with the recent rise in extreme weather events. Ensure your fleet is prepared for the upcoming months with the tips below.

  • Fuel: All diesels are not made the same. Depending on your regional location, or the use of biofuels, the chemical makeup of diesel and additives can vary widely. While many northern climates will begin adding additives and reducing biofuel levels in diesel as temperatures drop, some areas are not concerned with this. Below are a few solutions to help protect your fuel supplies:
  • Prepare your fuel supplies. If you have fuel tanks at any of your northern locations, use additives to reduce the amount of water accumulating throughout the year. These steps will reduce the chance of your fuel supplies turning into an expensive ice cube when temperatures drop.
  • Be region conscious. When traveling in warmer climates, fuel up with only as much fuel as you will need to get into the northern regions, this will help protect you from regional fuel differences.
  • Reduce the use of biofuels in colder months. Biofuels contain a higher level of water in their makeup and additives designed to reduce water content are often ineffective at controlling these greater moisture levels. Switching to higher traditional diesel mixtures can offset expensive freezing.
  • Treat the fuel in your rig. While some areas, like the northeast and Canada, often pre-treat fuel before it reaches truck stops it is important to know if the fuel in your tanks has been treated. If it hasn't, use additives to reduce water content and prevent clouding, which can see your diesel turning into filter and fuel line blocking gel.
  • Fill up. Full tanks have a reduced chance of producing condensation, thereby reducing the chances of your tanks freezing. By ensuring your tanks are full when your rig will be sitting protects you from the dangerous effects of too much winter condensation.
  • Vehicle Maintenance: Just addressing the needs of your fuel will not prevent your fleet from a winter disaster. A number of vehicle maintenance adjustments can help stave off costly temperature-induced troubles.
  • Check your engine block heaters. Most diesel trucks, especially those used in northern climates come standard with engine block heaters and in some cases oil pan heaters. These important devices not only lead to a quicker start in cold temperatures, they ensure proper lubrication for your engine when cold starting and eliminate the possibility of catastrophic engine damage. Before temperatures drop, check to make sure all heaters are properly working and trucks in your lot have access to working power outlets.
  • Check and double check fluids. Important fluids like coolant, transmission, brake and windshield washer fluid become even more important in extreme temperatures. When testing your coolant, plan for the lowest temperature to be 10-20 degrees lower than the lowest temperature you expect your fleet to be exposed to. When faced with road salt, frost and heavy snow fall a clean windshield can mean the difference between a safe trip and an accident. Don't forget to keep levels topped off and double check that windshield washer pumps are working properly.
  • Evaluate your oil options. Some engine manufacturers recommend a different viscosity of oil depending on the temperatures in which your fleet operates. Consider adjusting your oil type in the winter to account for lower temperatures and help counter lower fuel mileage experienced from winter driving.
  • Don't forget about the tires. A truck's tires help it stay glued to the road and winter brings a new set of challenges. Colder temperatures can lead to great changes in air pressure, be sure to check your air pressure more frequently during cold weather. If your fleet frequently operates in colder climates, consider the use of tires specifically designed for snow during winter months. Traveling in the mountains or other areas where the use of snow chains are allowed' Make sure to have a set on hand, they can be indispensable in certain situations.
  • Replace wiper blades. Just as it is important to keep your rig topped up on windshield washer fluid, all the fluid in the world won't make a difference if your fleet is operating with worn out wiper blades. Ensure your blades are at peak performance and switch to heavy duty blades if you expect to battle snow.
  • Perform regular battery maintenance. Battery performance is diminished in colder weather, and improperly maintained batteries can fail. Make sure your fleet has the power needed, when they need it, by maintaining proper electrolyte levels and replacing old batteries before they fail. Use this opportunity to test the overall electrical system and alternator output for your entire fleet.

Whether it is colder weather or warmer, preparing for seasonal changes before they happen is integral to a well running efficient fleet. Confirm that your fleet has a maintenance plan designed around the different seasons and educate your employees on the steps they can take to guarantee your fleet isn't left out in the cold.

This entry was posted on November 19th, 2012 by jhubbard and is filed under Recent News & Updates.