If you’re a trucker, nobody needs to tell you that having your truck and semi trailer out of commission for any significant period of time is a problem. In summertime, as temperatures start to climb, so does the risk of serious, heat-related issues. From damage caused by an overheated engine to blown tires, these troubles can take you off the road for hours or even days at a time.
And it’s not just trucks and semi trailers that can be adversely affected by high temperatures. You, as the driver, can be sidelined—or at least made very uncomfortable—by the heat. So, it’s important to understand the effects of hot-weather driving and how to prepare for or prevent them.
Preparing a Truck and Semi Trailer for Hot-Weather Driving
As the mercury starts to rise, here are some steps you should take to ensure your truck and semi trailer are ready for the heat:
- Check your engine oil. Having the right quantity of clean oil is essential for proper engine operation at any temperature, and especially in hot summer months. Be sure to have the oil changed as recommended by the manufacturer, and check the oil often enough that you can ensure it remains at the proper level. Also, if you have an oil temperature gauge, keep an eye on it as you drive to make sure it stays in the appropriate range.
- Check your tires. You should check the tires on your rig before you start a trip and every few hours or roughly every 100 miles when driving in particularly hot weather. A rule of thumb is that if a tire is too hot to touch, you should keep the rig stationary until the tires cool. Overheated tires can blow out or catch fire, both of which will result in costly replacement and downtime. As you are examining the tires, identifying damage can also enable you to take action before a problem arises.
- Check your engine coolant and radiator cap. Ensuring that your engine cooling system is working properly is, obviously, critical when driving in hot temperatures. Check the coolant level before you get on the road and add manufacturer-recommended coolant/water mix as needed. You should also inspect the radiator cap for signs of cracking or swelling, as a failing radiator cap can cause problems with the cooling system and engine. Then, check the coolant temperature gauge as you drive. If the temperature exceeds the recommended range, stop and try to determine the cause. Sight glasses or translucent overflow or coolant-recovery reservoirs can help you see if the coolant level is low even while the engine is hot. Of course, extreme caution should be used—and the manufacturer’s directions should be followed—when inspecting the cooling system, as steam or boiling water escaping from the system can cause serious injuries.
- Check your belts and hoses. Belts should have the proper tension level, and both belts and hoses should be free of cracks or other signs of excessive wear. A broken belt or ruptured hose can lead to overheating and/or engine failure, and operating a truck and semi trailer in high temperatures can increase that risk.
In addition to these pre-trip checks, you should have a mechanic do a more in-depth inspection annually. For example, they should drain and flush the radiator once a year and inspect its interior for rust and residue buildup. Being proactive about addressing these issues can help prevent mid-trip problems that can put you in a very difficult position with a customer who is eagerly anticipating their delivery.
Best Practices for Hauling a Semi Trailer in the Summer Heat
Proper preparation is crucial when operating a semi in hot weather. However, there are also best practices for summertime driving that can help prevent heat-related problems. For example, you should be aware of how high temperatures affect asphalt. As roads get hot, you may see spots where melted tar “bleeds” out. That tar can be extremely slippery, so you need to be very careful when traveling over it, especially when turning or braking.
Maintaining a safe speed is also key. Higher speeds put more stress on your engine, tires, brakes and other components of your truck and semi trailer. So, you should plan your travel days to allow for moderate speeds and also breaks to let your rig cool down as needed.
Of course your truck and semi trailer aren’t the only things that need to stay within appropriate temperature operating ranges. You do, as well! Proper hydration is essential for helping your body cool itself, so drinking water throughout your day is important.
It is also important to keep in mind that the temperature inside a truck cab can climb rapidly if the air conditioning isn’t running. You may want to shut your truck down completely when taking a cooling break, but it may be best to rest in a shady spot outside the cab so that the heat doesn’t sneak up on you while you relax or nap. And if you find yourself outside your cab for an extended period while loading/unloading, performing maintenance or repairs, etc., be sure to apply sunscreen. Not only are sunburns painful, they can increase your risk of skin cancer.
Other Considerations for Summer Semi Truck Driving
Driving in the summertime also means dealing with highways crowded with travelers, road construction and other factors that may keep you on the road longer than expected. That, of course, makes your hot-weather prep and engine monitoring even more important.
High temperatures also increase the risk of adverse weather conditions including thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes and flash floods. And with these conditions comes an increased risk of things like downed trees or powerlines, dangerously eroded bridges and roadways, etc. Using an app with real-time weather alerts can be helpful, especially if you are traveling through areas where you are unfamiliar with the weather conditions and warning signs.
A Little Extra Awareness Goes a Long Way
For all its risks, summertime driving can be uneventful and even very enjoyable. Whether you’re hauling your own semi trailer or a rented or leased dry van, reefer, or flatbed trailer, all it takes is a little extra focus on preparing and monitoring your rig and your surroundings to ensure your trip goes smoothly.
If you have questions about our inventory of semi trailers for lease or rent from makers like Utility, Great Dane and Wabash, don’t hesitate to contact Boxwheel Trailer Leasing at your convenience. We’re also happy to tell you about our convenient, three-step trailer rental or trailer leasing process.