How to properly park equipment – and ensure it’s ready to roll when needed
It’s a grim reality that during the current recession, many fleets are faced with the prospect of parking trucks indefinitely.
In an industry where profits are derived from maximizing asset utilization, parking trucks is not ideal. However, the worldwide recession has also dried up the export market and even used truck sales are slow – so in some cases there’s no alternative but to park equipment and wait out the downturn.
If you’re forced to park trucks and trailers for an extended period of time, it’s important to prepare them for downtime in such a way that ensures they’re ready to roll when they’re called back into service. Taking the time to prepare trucks before putting them to rest will result in less downtime when they’re put back on the road.
One of the most important considerations on trucks and trailers are the tires, according to Tim Miller, commercial tire marketing manager with Goodyear.
“Often, fleets will just park a tractor and trailer without giving much thought to tires,” said Miller. “But a little preventive care will extend the life of tires, as time, moisture and inflation levels all play a part in wearing out a tire, even if it sits idle. UV rays are harmful to many tires and as a tire sits, it loses air, plus long stints without moving the vehicle can cause tire flat spotting. So it’s important to spend a little time with your tires prior to parking your vehicle.”
Some tips for tire care include: Taking the load off the tires or overinflating by 25%; keeping the sidewalls out of harmful UV rays; and moving the vehicle regularly to prevent flat spotting.
Parked tractors should be turned on regularly to prevent batteries from draining and to keep seals lubricated. When you’re running the tractor, be sure to turn on the air conditioning or defrost system, suggests Frank Burrow, manager of product support with Red Dot Corp. – a supplier of climate control systems.
“We used to tell everyone at least once a month you should turn on your A/C system and keep the seals lubricated,” Burrow says. “Once we get into several months of sitting, seals may begin to dry out and any moisture in the system can start to corrode components. You won’t get the component life
or performance you expect.”
Running the air conditioning system lubricates the compressor. Failing to do so can result in o-rings and seals drying out, resulting in leaks and poor performance when the truck is put back into service.
Ray Camball, an industry consultant and mechanical engineer, says all wiring connections should be sprayed with Krown or an equivalent product to prevent corrosion. If you’re parking a trailer, Camball suggests: ensuring doors are closed tight to avoid leaks; inspecting the trailer roof and walls for leakage; and ensuring the landing gear’s feet are on a firm surface. He also suggests covering gladhand openings with screens so insects don’t climb inside and later get blown into valves. Camball said where you park is as important as the other considerations.
“Consider locations and ways to position units to discourage theft of tires, lights and the trailer itself,” he says.
The following suggestions have been gathered from industry experts:
• Move the truck at least once every three months. This will prevent tires from flat spotting and also help the bearings, axles and other components. But don’t move vehicles when it’s extremely cold out, as it could do more harm than good.
• Park in a place that deters theft. Ensure records are up to date for easy reporting if a parked truck or trailer goes missing.
• Don’t park trucks in sitting water. Try to lift the wheels off the ground or park on a firm, clean, well-drained surface.
• Drain air tanks to prevent moisture from collecting.
• Place screens or covers over gladhand openings to prevent earwigs, wasps and other critters from climbing inside.
• Unload the trailer if possible to lighten the load being supported by the tires and landing gear.
• Grease components such as landing gear, B-train rollers, pins, etc. to avoid corrosion.
• Ensure doors are properly closed to avoid rain and snow from getting inside vans.
• Look for signs of roof or wall leaks and repair them to avoid water damage.
• Place wooden planks under landing gear so it doesn’t sink when the ground thaws, potentially causing fifth wheel damage upon hook-up.
• To help avoid flat spotting, inflate tires to 25% above recommended inflation pressure. (But don’t exceed wheel or rim manufacturer’s maximum inflation capacity).
• Check tire pressure weekly to detect any slow leaks.
• Re-inflate to recommended pressure +25% every two months.
• Try to park out of direct sunlight, so sidewalls are protected from harmful UV rays. If that’s not feasible, cover the tires with opaque plastic or a fabric tarp, Goodyear recommends. You can also protect tires from sunlight by using the orientation of van trailers and buildings.
• Before putting the truck back in service, remember to restore inflation to recommended pressures.
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