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Semi Truck Breakdowns: What to Do and How to Avoid Them

It’s the moment no truck driver wants: something goes wrong and you’re stranded on the side of the road. While you may have prepared for this, sometimes even the most seasoned truck driver may be stuck on the highway from an issue with a semi truck. While some truck breakdowns are caused by mechanical errors that would have been impossible to notice, many of the common reasons for breakdowns can be caught early and prevented entirely. Let’s go over what may be causing breakdowns in your fleet and how you can stop them from happening in the future.

What causes truck breakdowns?

There are countless reasons why a truck could be broken down, from electrical issues to user error. Some reasons that stand out include:
  • Dead batteries. Batteries have a lifespan of around 3-5 years in the best conditions, but be aware that extreme heat or cold may make the battery work harder and shorten its longevity.
  • Tires. A 2010 report from the American Trucking Association found that tires caused over half of roadside breakdowns, due primarily to lack of proper inflation. A tire being underinflated by even 20% can reduce its life by 30%.
  • Fuel. When you’re working hard to get to the next stop, you may not notice your fuel gauge hitting empty before it’s too late. Running out of fuel without reserves can cause you to be stuck until fuel arrives.
  • Brakes. Breakdowns may happen as a result of a wreck as well, a problem commonly caused by brake issues. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration noted in a study that 29% of crashes caused by a semi truck were due to issues with brakes.

What should I do if my truck breaks down?

Once you begin to sense a problem with your truck it’s important to immediately stop driving. Ideally, you would be able to stop at a rest stop, but depending on your location this may not be possible. If this is the case, find the nearest available shoulder that has enough space for your truck to safely occupy. When stopped, use triangles or flares to mark your location to other drivers on the road. This can help especially during night time or poor weather conditions when lower visibility may occur. Contact truck road service and your dispatch as soon as possible so you don’t spend long stranded. Don’t attempt to fix any problem on your own and allow a mechanic who specializes in semi truck repair to resolve the issue. You should always have an emergency kit ready in your rig in case of a breakdown that includes food, a means of contact like a radio or cell phone, and clothes that can keep you warm.

How do I prevent breakdowns?

A breakdown can cost you crucial time and money for your fleet. While truck road service can help when disaster strikes, your focus should be on preventing the issues that cause breakdowns in the first place. Your first line of defense against complications with your fleet is a preventive maintenance program. Regular inspection of your fleet can allow you to recognize minor problems before they become catastrophic. There should always be a record of all maintenance performed on a truck so you aren’t stuck guessing when you should replace parts or make repairs. A regular preventive maintenance program can help you to spend more time on the road by avoiding preventable issues, but be aware that even the most well-maintained truck may experience downtime. Always know who to call and have a safety plan in place to ensure the safety of your drivers during a breakdown. Making a plan for what to do should a truck breakdown occur can help you to limit the time you’re stranded and keep you on the road as much as possible. If you need a reliable, safe truck for your fleet, contact us at Pedigree. We’ll help you find a well-maintained pre-owned semi that suits your unique needs.