Experienced commercial truckers know that mountain driving requires skill and concentration. Newly-licensed drivers need to gain that understanding as they prepare for their first journeys. As a new driver, you need to grasp the nuances of driving up and down steep, winding and narrow inclines; otherwise, you can make mistakes that lead to tragic consequences. Noting just the following few tips to heart can help you shift your driving brain into the right gear before you hit your first mountain pass.
1. Prepare Your Tractor’s Engine Intake
Diesel engines offer superior high-altitude driving efficiency compared to standard gasoline engines. This thin-air benefit derives from the engine’s ability to combust more air and fuel per cycle. However, to attain this performance, the fuel entering the combustion chamber should be free of contaminants, including water and dirt. Fuel air separators are examples of heavy duty diesel systems that remove the harmful elements so the engine works efficiently at higher elevations; as a bonus, this scrubbing enhances long-term reliability.
2. Maintain Your Brakes and Tires
Every driver should internalize the concept that effective tire contact points are all that keep the truck on the road. If your tires are excessively worn, wet conditions will cause hydroplaning. At the same time, your tires can not do their job if your brakes fail prematurely. Throughout the season, make certain your fleet manager actively services these two critical components; if you are an independent trucker, you need to schedule these services consistently along with oil changes and other routine maintenance.
3. Overestimate Grade and Cant
When you crest a mountain, you will often see the road twisting and descending far into the distance. You can easily misjudge the steepness of the grade and the angle of the road’s camber, that is, how much it slopes toward its edges. As a consequence, you may end up driving faster than your brakes can handle, or you may roll over rounding a turn. Pay attention to posted grade signs, and drive in a lower gear than your initial inclination. After a long descent, test your brakes where the road is level to make certain they still have stopping power before your next downhill ride.
The science of physics works against you when managing a fully-loaded tractor-trailer in the mountains. Your truck’s mass inhibits your efforts to control your speed and maintain maneuverability. By performing the right preparation measures and practicing safe-driving strategies, however, you can take control of the mountain until you make it safely to the flats.