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June 13, 2024

Preparing for Wildfire Season: A Guide For Truckers

Preparing for Wildfire Season: A Guide For Truckers

Wildfire season is here, and for truckers heading west into wildfire zones, a little preparation can make a big difference. At The Service Company, located in Southwestern Ohio, we understand the unique challenges you face on the road. From managing ash buildup in air filters to preventing fluid leaks, we’ve got some helpful tips to keep your rig running smoothly and safely as you navigate through these areas.

Reduced Air Quality

The smoke from wildfires contains a mixture of harmful pollutants, including particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds. For truckers, prolonged exposure to this polluted air can lead to respiratory problems, eye irritation, and a variety of other health issues. For truckers that spend days at a time on the road, this can be quite alarming. 

Truckers should ensure their vehicle's cabin air filters are in good condition to minimize how much of this polluted air enters your truck’s cabin. 

Road Closures

Wildfires don't just affect visibility and air quality—they can also wreak havoc on road conditions. Due to how suddenly evacuation orders can be issued, highways may be packed bumper to bumper with cars. In some cases, roads might be closed entirely due to the fire's proximity or damage. These disruptions can lead to significant detours and delays, complicating logistics and delivery schedules.

Truckers need to stay informed about road conditions through reliable sources and plan their routes accordingly. Utilizing GPS systems with real-time traffic updates can help in navigating these challenges.

Reduced Visibility 

Thick smoke from fires can obscure the road, making it difficult to see other vehicles, road signs, and potential obstacles. This drastically reduces reaction times and increases the risk of accidents. Truckers must slow down, use headlights even during the day, and maintain a greater following distance to navigate safely.

Ash Buildup in Air Filters

Why is ash buildup in air filters a concern?

As many who have driven through wildfire-prone areas will know, wildfires produce an enormous amount of ash. This ash can infiltrate your truck's air filter, leading to decreased engine performance and increased wear and tear. 

The air filter is a vital component that ensures your engine receives clean air, free from debris and contaminants. When clogged with ash, your engine won’t get the air it needs to run properly. You’ll likely see a dramatic loss in power and fuel efficiency, and in some cases, the filter itself may collapse and allow non-filtered air into your engine.

How to manage and prevent ash buildup

Regular inspection and maintenance of your air filter are paramount. When running in areas with active wildfires, check your filter more frequently. If you notice a significant buildup of ash, it's time to clean or replace it. Carry spare filters and necessary tools to change them on the go. Remember, a clean air filter not only keeps your engine running smoothly but also improves fuel efficiency, saving you money in the long run.

Fluid Leaks: Flammable Fuels & Lubricants

What types of fluid leaks should I be vigilant about?

Fluids such as oil, diesel, and coolant are flammable and pose a significant risk if they leak and come into contact with hot engine components or external heat sources like wildfire embers. Identifying and addressing these leaks promptly can prevent potential fires.

How to detect and address fluid leaks

Perform a thorough inspection of your truck before each trip. Look for any signs of fluid leakage under the vehicle, around the engine bay, and near the fuel lines. If you detect a leak, don't ignore it. Repair it immediately or seek professional help if needed. Using high-quality seals and gaskets can also reduce the likelihood of leaks.

Preventing Breakdowns

Breakdowns can be disastrous, especially during wildfire season. Let's look at some common causes and how to prevent them.

Overheating

Overheating can occur due to several reasons: low coolant levels, a faulty fan clutch, a clogged radiator, or a malfunctioning water pump. An overheating engine can lead to severe damage and leave you stranded.

Regularly check your coolant levels and top off as needed. Inspect the radiator for any debris or blockage, particularly ash and soot from wildfires. Ensure your cooling fan and thermostat are functioning correctly. Investing in a coolant system flush and using a high-quality coolant mix can also help maintain optimal temperatures.

Tire Blowouts

Tire blowouts are often caused by under-inflation, overloading, or wear and tear. The intense heat from wildfires can exacerbate these issues, making blowouts more likely.

Check your tire pressure regularly and keep it within the recommended range. Inspect your tires for signs of wear, cracks, or punctures. Rotate your tires as part of your regular maintenance routine to ensure even wear. Avoid overloading your truck, as it puts additional stress on the tires.

Trailer Bearing Failure

Trailer bearings can fail due to inadequate lubrication, contamination, or general wear and tear. Bearing failure can cause significant damage and immobilize your trailer.

Regularly grease your trailer bearings to ensure they are well-lubricated. Check for signs of contamination or wear during your inspections. Replace any worn or damaged bearings immediately to avoid further complications.

Final Thoughts From The Service Company

Wildfire season presents unique challenges for truckers, but with proper preparation and regular maintenance, you can navigate these dangers safely. At The Service Company in Dayton, Ohio, we're committed to keeping you on the road and out of harm's way. Stay vigilant, stay prepared, and drive safely.