how to drive a semi truck in the mountains

There are two things that are especially challenging about driving a semi-truck in the mountains: the part where you go up and the part where you come down.

Each direction requires precise control of your rig to make sure it has enough power to pull its weight to the top, and that it has enough power to stay slow and safe with your cargo on the descending side.

Even experienced drivers still need to be cautious about driving in this terrain. Bad weather, poor roads, distracted drivers, and other factors can make mountain driving conditions hazardous. With the exception of times when mountain roads must be closed for safety reasons, drivers still need to push forward and get to their destination, no matter how intimidating the roads appear.

Doing so successfully requires making sure you and your truck are up to the challenge. The following strategies can be used to improve your odds of doing well driving a semi-truck in the mountains.

Vehicle maintenance

Making sure your truck is ready is vital. This requires inspection of all vital parts before you depart, including the brakes, the tires, and the engine. A thorough walk-through – followed by any necessary repairs/upgrades – can help you with peace of mind rather than kicking yourself for not fixing these items earlier. Other features can be inspected and repaired/replaced too, such as wiper blades, the battery, lights, your heater, and more. Having emergency items handy is a smart idea, including tire chains, blankets, and snacks.

Know the Terrain

Experienced drivers plan ahead, which is why you should know what’s approaching and the current conditions. Even a route you’re familiar with could change, especially in winter. Preparation can include being familiar with the route, including tricky spots or places to pull over in case of trouble. Talking with other drivers who recently went that way or asking around before you start your ascent can help avoid any nasty surprises.

Proper Loading and Weight Distribution

More than likely, you’ll be taking a full load. So it’s vital to make sure it’s loaded correctly and the weight is evenly distributed. This will help you stay balanced and keep you in control when in congested traffic. An unbalanced load can do the opposite, including pulling the truck or forcing it to veer into traffic.

Speed and gear selection

Knowing when to change gears and speeds can be greatly beneficial when taking a mountain adventure in a semi-truck. Downshifting while climbing can provide power but cut speed. Keeping speed low, especially on the way down, is safer but can be tough on the brakes and engine. Knowing when to switch gears or when to change speed can be taught and experienced.

Proper braking

Tractor-trailers require different types of brakes than a standard automobile. They help large trucks slow down or stop easily. Incorporating an engine retarder can also improve the ability to brake better and stay in control.

Following the rules

Many local, state and national laws are in place to keep you and those around you safe, as well as make sure your cargo gets where it’s supposed to be. Following safety rules includes obeying posted speed limits, avoiding impairment, taking breaks when required, and being ready for what’s ahead.

Learn more

If you’re interested in learning these skills and being part of this enjoyable and necessary industry, companies like Tri-State Hazmat offer job opportunities for qualified truck drivers throughout the country.

To learn more, contact us today!

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