There is one thing that’s for sure about East Tennessee—the weather can change in an instant! Summer temperatures can soar into triple digits one week, only to tempt us shortly after with the promise of Fall. Winter can ease in with showers or come roaring in with snow and ice. Hail and tornadoes? We’ve seen it all. For those with a transportation fleet, how do you manage extreme temperature and weather swings traveling across the country while maintaining your overhead too? We’ll look at three major factors that affect fleets during extreme conditions, and what you can do to make sure you’re ready for whatever Mother Nature throws your way.
Make Sure Your Drivers Are Prepared
Changes in weather and the driving conditions can happen in an instant, regardless of location. If your driver is a long way from home, being ill-prepared in a potential weather emergency can become critical. For this reason, educating drivers and fleet supervisors on emergency safety procedures is important. Drivers should be familiar with their vehicles, basic emergency procedures such as using road flares, and traffic safety during an emergency situation. Each driver should have an emergency kit in their vehicle including the following:
- Road flares or warning triangles.
- Brightly colored cloth to tie to the driver-side door.
- Flashlight with fully charged batteries.
- First aid kit.
- Basic tool kit.
- Duct tape.
- Pad of paper and pen.
If your driver is involved in an emergency situation, be it weather or accident related, be sure they know the proper protocol regarding how to get help and who to contact. Many fleets now utilize fleet technology, not only for the supervisors at home tracking the vehicle performance but for the use of the fleet drivers. In-vehicle management systems can help drivers by providing real-time information about road conditions, speed limits, gear shifting and braking behavior, and more.
Vehicle System Maintenance
Hot and cold months both have their own unique challenges, and the shape of your fleet can mean the difference between cost or savings. There are a few main areas that need to be monitored and addressed as the seasons change:
- Cooling Systems — The amount of coolant in each vehicle, and the strength, will determine how it is affected by extreme temperatures. Ensuring the engine cooling fan is working properly and that the refrigerant is topped off will prevent engine overheating. This can happen in both hot and cold weather.
- Battery — Hot weather can cause evaporation issues, but cold weather can be a killer for your fleet if your batteries are in bad shape. Thicker oil makes diesel batteries five times harder to start in cold weather, which usually means block heaters and battery warmers are a must if you expect any cold weather.
- Fuel Systems — on top of keeping your fuel systems clean and in proper order, using fuel additives during temperature swings could save on maintenance costs in the long run. Summer heat can cause fuel evaporation thus many fleets look to using gas with a lower RVP (Reid Vapor Pressure) or diesel fuel cut with fuel conditioners to keep it stable. Winter can cause the opposite issues, where diesel fuel can gel up due to cold temperatures, killing your fuel efficiency. Anti-gelling additives not only help improve engine startup, they can also clean deposits from your fuel injectors, combustion chambers, and intake valves. It’s also a good idea in extreme temperatures to make sure you keep at least a half-full tank of fuel, in case of an emergency.
- Tires — It seems basic and pretty self-explanatory, but tires play a huge role in how your fleet functions during extreme weather changes. Keeping up with tire pressure during temperature fluctuations is vital for fuel efficiency. Improper inflation levels can also cause uneven wear, even overheating and blowouts, during hot weather. If you’ll be traveling through wet, icy, or cold conditions, proper tread on the tires to keep from slipping and sliding on a slick road can be a lifesaver. Better tread during poor driving conditions can also aid in how quickly the vehicle can stop safely when the brakes are applied.
Using Fleet Technology
Even though they aren’t the ones on the road, fleet managers are aware of the challenges that extreme weather, natural disasters, and fluctuating temperatures can present to their vehicles and drivers. While fleet efficiency is important, and often at the forefront of their minds, ensuring driver safety and the reliability of their fleet is paramount. Technology continues to improve the way we track and monitor both driver and vehicle, and telematics technology in fleet management software systems is making this enormous (and often expensive) task easier, more systematic, and cost-effective. It can be extremely helpful when it directly influences areas controlled by temperature or weather conditions, both with vehicle maintenance and driver tracking. Tire tread readings, pressure tracking, route planning, inspection history…software can do it all! This can save you in the long run by being able to predict maintenance and track logistics, as well as driver monitoring.
Certified Diesel Solutions: The Leader in Fleet Management
East Tennessee is notorious for its weather unpredictability and changing road conditions, which means maintenance and preparedness is key to a well-running rig! We know that a truck or trailer in the shop is one that’s not making money, hurting the overall profitability of the fleet. Certified Diesel Solutions has the facilities, tools and diagnostics equipment, and expert ASE certified staff to handle both routine preventative maintenance and the servicing and repair of tractors and trailers for fleets of all sizes. Our technicians go over every corner of your rigs with careful attention to detail, staying ahead of any issues long before they can cause problems on the road. Additionally, we offer DOT inspections and attractive fleet pricing, making us the clear choice when it comes to maintaining your fleet. Rain or shine, hot or cold, Certified Diesel Solutions has been providing exceptional tractor-trailer service and maintenance to fleet operators across East Tennessee. Interested in learning more about how CDS can keep your fleet maintained and on the road? Click HERE to get in touch with us today!