The longer you spend behind the wheel, the greater your chances of breaking down. As a professional driver you’re bound to experience a breakdown at some point in your career. It doesn’t matter how good a driver you are, if your engine packs in you’re not going anywhere for awhile.
The key is to be prepared and act smart. Here are some tips to help you handle the situation, stay safe, and get moving again.
Plan in advance and reduce the risk
It’s a good idea to identify repair centres and facilities located along your route before you set off. You’ll often find you’re able to get your failing truck to a shop or truck stop rather than being stuck on the hard shoulder. I always find having a cup of tea while waiting for a recovery vehicle makes everything seem that little bit better.
It is advisable to conduct thorough pre-journey, post-journey, and en route checks of your vehicle. This will flag up any potential issues and allow you to deal with them sooner rather than later (away from the hard shoulder).
You want to get the truck moving again, but it’s important to stay safe. This means being careful when you exit the vehicle. Ideally, you will get out through the passenger side to avoid moving traffic. If it feels unsafe to get out of the cab, you should stay seated with your seatbelt on.
If you do get out, stand as far away from the road as possible or find a barrier to stand behind. If the engine is smoking you should also call the fire department.
Just remember: you make safety-conscious decisions every day you’re on the road, just do the same when you break down.
There are a number of things you can do when you can feel your truck is failing.
- Switch on your hazard warning lights as soon as possible, and ease carefully off the road.
- Park as far off the road as possible and place your warning triangles or flares at 15 feet, 45 feet and 75 feet behind the vehicle.
- Check to see if it is something you can repair yourself, if not you will need to call roadside assistance.
- Before you call, try to determine what you think the problem is. Most truck breakdowns are either faulty sending units or faulty emission equipment, so give as much information as you can on the phone.
- Call through to your dispatch and explain the situation. They may be able to advise you on repair shops – or contact them for you.
- Keep your dispatch updated on the situation throughout the repair process – they will want to know you are OK and keep the customer informed.
No one wants to find themselves broken down on the hard shoulder, but the risk of a breakdown is all part of being a truck driver. Luckily, it doesn’t happen that often, you just need to be prepared if it does.
What are your experiences of breaking down in a big rig? What tips do you have?