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Trailer Maintenance Tips for Commercial Rigs

We talk a lot about getting the most out of your assets by ensuring trailers aren’t left idle and how vHub provides you with the resources to improve optimization. However, you won’t get maximum asset utilization with a short trailer lifespan. You can achieve asset longevity by implementing maintenance procedures.

Here’s how.

Is Preventative Maintenance Necessary for Semi Trucks and Trailers?

Trucks take a lot of wear and tear on the road. Without preventative maintenance, your truck will break down faster, and small issues will turn into major ones.

Systematic inspections and repairs will help keep your assets in top shape. The faster you catch issues, the easier it is to address them. A proactive approach can help extend the lifetime of your assets and reduce instances of emergency repairs.

Seasonal Trailer Maintenance Checklist

A seasonal maintenance checklist is a part of creating a preventative strategy for keeping your truck in top condition. Here are some basic small tasks you should do regularly and the bigger services you should have a professional complete each year.

Perform Regular, Year-Round Checks

Have drivers inspect the truck when they prepare for a long drive or haul. Quick checks on a very regular basis will help catch small issues early on. Help your drivers know what to look for by giving them a pre-trip inspection checklist.

Fluids: Certain fluids—like oil, coolant, antifreeze, and fuel—can cause damage to your truck if they get too low. Drivers should get in the habit of checking levels and looking over the truck for any leaks. Check oil pressure, air pressure, and temperature to catch leaks before they become problematic or costly.

Tires: The tires on your truck and trailer are one of the most frequently replaced parts. Overworn tires can be a serious hazard and cause route delays if it wears out on the road. Drivers need to check tread and pressure frequently to reduce the chance of a blown tire.

Brakes: You would be in trouble if your brakes weren’t operating correctly and failed. Yet, brakes deteriorate quickly for semi trucks. Drivers should learn how to inspect the brake lining to check for leaks in the air pressure system.

Electrical: Warning lights, brake lights, flashers, and turn signals are all incredibly important when operating a vehicle on the road. Drivers need to ensure the electrical system is operating by testing these lights on their trucks and trailers. If your trailer is refrigerated, you must regularly check the environment to ensure it is accurate and working efficiently. A visual check should also ensure the wires look tightly connected and aren’t noticeably damaged.

Appearance: Look over the trailer to ensure there aren’t any visible signs of damage that might need to be addressed. Chips, cracks, and loose parts might need to be addressed before you head out for your next gig. Check the coupling devices and other moving parts, like ramps or doors.

Warm Weather Maintenance Checklist

In the spring, as temperatures rise, you should think about things that can specifically impact your rig because of heat. Increase your sections of the electrical and cooling system that are more likely to be strained with extreme heat on long stretches of highway. This should include inspecting parts like:

  • Air conditioning
  • Electrical system
  • Coolant
  • Tire pressure

Cold Weather Maintenance Checklist

As the weather cools in the fall, it’s time to think about how frozen roads and cold temperatures could impact your ride. Low temps can lead to hazardous weather that would be extremely dangerous without full control of the vehicle. Plus, there is also a higher risk of fluids freezing if they get low when the weather is really cold. Here are things to monitor carefully as it gets chilly outside:

  • Braking system
  • Fluid levels
  • Windshield and wipers
  • Fuel filter and levels
  • Tire tread
  • Undercarriage (for road salt buildup)

Mile-Based Maintenance

Finally, you should have regular checks based on your truck and trailer mileage. vHub automatically assesses the lifespan of your assets, so you can get the most out of your trailers for years to come. We all know that age impacts equipment, and things wear out over time.

The manufacturer guidelines of your assets typically provide schedules for ideal maintenance timelines. The guidelines also note how many miles you can expect before specific parts wear out and need a replacement. Ideally, you should schedule replacements before the part goes out and requires emergency services.

Who Can Perform Maintenance on Trailers?

Drivers should be able to do many equipment checks and maintenance tasks. However, you should also schedule preventative maintenance with a professional mechanic or technician for harder or bigger jobs.

It’s important to know the abilities and limitations of your drivers. Don’t rely on your team if they aren’t trained to understand what they are looking for and spot important issues at early stages.

What Impacts Semi Truck Maintenance Costs?

A few things can impact the semi-truck maintenance cost and the ROI it provides over time by saving you from emergency expenses. Make the semi-maintenance process as simple as possible to keep the costs low.

Early repairs: If you wait on small issues, you may pay more for repairing things that continue to worsen. While a small trailer dent might only require a little paint, allowing it to rust might mean needing a patch—or something more expensive.

Maintenance intervals: How often are you doing work to keep up with your truck and trailer? Waiting months between cleanings and inspections can lead to a larger task that takes longer.

Inflation costs: The rising costs of materials and goods means labor will be more expensive. Watch for inflation costs to make your semi-trailer maintenance fees higher than they typically are.

Unexpected breakdowns: Waiting until something goes bad is a surefire way to get a price hike. Getting maintenance scheduled quickly and parts rushed can take time and effort. Emergency repairs can be hard to plan for, so your budget might also suffer.

How Much Does Trailer Servicing and Maintenance Cost?

The average truck can raise around $15,000 per year in maintenance costs and repairs. Around 10% of overall expenses (or about $0.12 per mile) is spent on repairs and maintenance, according to Truckers Report. Retreading tires can make up around 3% of expenses, costing around $4,000 annually.

However, repairs and scheduled preventative maintenance are less than 1/5 the price of purchasing a new trailer and less than 1/10 the price of purchasing a new truck and trailer. Extending your equipment life with a dedicated approach to maintenance will save you money each year.

Tools Truck Drivers Should Always Have On Hand

If something goes wrong, it’s best to be prepared. Always keep a well-stocked toolbox on hand in emergencies while on the road. The ideal roadside toolbox varies on your truck and trailer but includes:

  • Ratchet screwdrivers in a variety of sizes (including Hex, Torx, Philips, and slotted)
  • Socket set
  • Slip joint pliers
  • Dogbone speed wrench
  • Ratchet strap and/or bungee cord
  • Sledgehammer
  • Pony clamps and/or vice grips
  • Electrical tape and duct tape
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Work gloves and a first aid kit with bandages
  • Work lamp with a mount, plus extra batteries
  • Emergency triangles and/or road flares
  • Extra fuses, coolant, motor oil, and windshield washer fluid

What To Do if Your Truck Breaks Down

If your truck breaks down while on the road—especially in a busy area like a highway—it’s important to remain calm and have a plan in place. Start by turning on your flashers and getting off to the widest place you can get to; ideally, get off the highway or find a wide shoulder.

  1. Before getting out of the vehicle, assess your surroundings and safety.
  2. Set up your flares or triangles 50/100/150 feet behind the truck to warn oncoming drivers.
  3. Tilt your hood to signal to other drivers that you are broken down and working on repairs.
  4. Assess the problem and contact your dispatcher with your suspicions.
  5. Perform the fix or get the help you need for an emergency roadside repair.
  6. Keep your dispatcher informed about your progress, so they know your situation.

Tips for Setting up a Preventative Maintenance Schedule

Staying on top of preventative maintenance with a schedule is important for extending the life of your assets. If you manage a fleet or trailer pool, staying organized is even more important so nothing falls through the cracks.

Don’t forget to schedule cargo trailer maintenance along with your power-only units.

While some checks should be done with every haul, other checks are seasonal. Additionally, schedule a larger maintenance inspection annually to closely examine the engine and auxiliaries, adjust the alignment, and make scheduled replacements for components ending their recommended lifespan.

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