Truckipedia Blog Category - 7 Tips for Hauling in the Mountains
Trucking is a demanding career. Your attention and skill need to be at their peak over long hours and distances. You need to be aware of yourself and your surroundings, ready to respond to what other drivers on the road – or wildlife – may do unexpectedly.
Adding to the challenge of the job is needing to manage all these things while navigating different types of terrain. And few terrains test drivers as much as the mountains. Trucking in Canada, you no doubt know the difficulties of moving through the Canadian Rockies, into and out of BC’s Interior and Lower Mainland. The climbs and descents along each of the major highways through the Rockies are significant.
It’s important to us at Velocity Truck Centres that the companies and drivers we work with are always at the top of the game. We asked our team of experts for tips on hauling in the mountains safely. Here are the highlights of what they shared.
- Pay close attention to the grade.
You’ve been on this road a thousand times, you say to yourself. You know all about it. But do you? Letting your guard down because you feel comfortable and confident on a route can be a significant cause of driver error, resulting in accidents or truck damage. This is especially true when the route sees you descending steep hills and you’re not careful about your speed.
Know the grade before you start your descent. Look for the signs marked at the top, which will also tell you what speed should be comfortable for you. Don’t guess at the grade and find out you’re wrong when it’s too late.
Even if you know the route well, don’t get overconfident and forget that climbs and descents take time. Don’t rush, take all the time you need to feel fully in control until you reach the top or bottom of the hill or mountain.
- Be ready for curves.
You’re ready for the grade of the hill; are you also ready for the curves? Winding paths are a fact of life on mountain roads and your truck is far more vulnerable on a curve than a straightaway. Knowing where you’ll be encountering curves on any terrain, but particularly in the mountains, should always be part of your trip planning. That knowledge gives you the confidence to handle your truck at the proper speed because you know what to expect. Surprises are never good on the road.
- Watch the weather and chain up.
Mountain weather is unpredictable, particularly at higher elevations. Checking the weather on the day you plan to travel can give you a decent idea of what to expect. Regardless of what that forecast says, though, you should always be prepared for changes along the way.
If you encounter harsh weather and absolutely have to keep going, watch for chain signs posted and respect them. Chain up at the bottom of the hill you need to climb; don’t wait until you find out that the road isn’t in good shape. Even better than continuing through bad weather, though, is taking a break if you have the ability. Wait until the sanders are out and the chain signs are down before you continue on.
- In bad traction conditions, use light, steady brake pressure.
The weather isn’t bad enough to require you to use your chains, but it’s still poor, with snow and ice or a thin layer of rain on the road surface. If traction is a challenge, you should be tackling any descent slowly and carefully, without using your engine brakes or cruise control. Instead, applying light, steady brake pressure from top to bottom will keep your brakes from overheating. Doing the opposite and intermittently hitting your brakes to slow down can lead to a loss of traction where you can’t gain control again.
- Be prepared to change routes if necessary.
If the weather is looking bad and you need to get to your destination, part of your trip planning should always include looking for alternate routes. Because of varying altitudes or isolated weather systems, certain roads can be easier to travel when bad weather comes in, even if it means taking on a few more kilometers. Know your ways around any mountain problems and you’ll have even more peace of mind. In fact, even if you need to go out of your way to avoid weather, you may find yourself getting to your destination faster, without all of the stop-start and slowing down that comes with challenging conditions.
- Turn on your hazard lights.
Part of good driving etiquette is letting other drivers know what to expect from you. When you find yourself needing to slow down to navigate a sharp incline or decline, it’s always a good idea to turn on your hazard lights. Doing so alerts other drivers that you are moving at a slower pace than them and they should take extra care and attention when travelling behind you or passing.
- Remember – slow and steady wins the race.
The best tip our team offered us for hauling in the mountains is to remember the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare: ‘slow and steady wins the race.’ The chances of bad things happening because you ascended or descended a steep grade too slowly are far less than if you do it too quickly. Particularly when you are descending a hill, control is key. As your truck gathers downward momentum, it’s more and more difficult to regain that control, so don’t force yourself into a life-or-death situation through bad choices.
Part of taking the slow and steady approach is respecting the other vehicles on the road, too. If another driver is taking their time navigating a grade or difficult conditions, don’t tailgate them. Respect their need to take their time and leave space between you to calmly navigate anything that might happen. You will also avoid over-braking and increasing the chances that you overheat your vehicle, leading to more problems.
Mountain roads can be far more beautiful than those long, flat straightaways. But the nature of their beauty means a different set of challenges that require your full attention. By following the tips from our team, you’ll make mountain driving safer for you, your crews and the other drivers on the road. There is nothing more important to us than every driver making it to their destination safely.
Looking for trucking experts? You’ve found them here at Velocity Truck Centres. We love helping our customers play your critical role to our Canadian economy to the best of your ability. Have questions? Reach out to our team of experts across Western Canada. We’re happy to help.