Buying practical accessories for your rig will help you be safe

by Mark Lee

I think I may have bought a lemon! There’s nothing wrong with my truck mechanically, the fuel mileage continues to impress me and I can’t really complain about any of the important things, but there are quite a few little things that I don’t have that I’ve seen on other trucks.

Things like the ability to do a pre-trip without leaving my cab.

I’ve got a pre-trip assistant that I can use to cycle through my lights and check for air leaks, but I still  have to get out and look at the lights and wipe dirt/snow off of them.

I can’t check for flat tires or that my fifth wheel is still locked or any of the other checks I need to do.

I also don’t have a magic hammer to check my tire pressures, mine just makes a thumping sound.

I recently aired my tires to 105 psi and did the tire thump.

I got the same sound from all 18 tires, yet when I checked the pressures on the trailer they were all at different pressures ranging from 80 psi to 100 psi, yet the noise was no different.

My hammer doesn’t check my brakes either. I see other drivers at brake checks walking around banging away their tires with their special hammer and then setting off down the hill.

I have to actually look at my brakes and check their adjustment.

The clock is also not one of the special ones that other trucks have. I can pull over for an eight-hour break and while I’m lying on my bunk reading or messing around on the Internet and a truck will pull in next to me and shut down for the night. The next morning as I’m getting up that truck will be pulling out already, me I’m still stuck there for another 30 mins to an hour as my clock shows I haven’t been there for eight hours yet.

I’m also losing time on the road, I can sit right at the speed limit according to my speedometer, which matches my GPS, but trucks blow by me as if I’m stood still, not just on the highway, but on city streets too.

The thing is, I see those same trucks with their special clocks and magic hammers quite often during the day, quite often I will be passed by the same truck a few times a day.

On the odd occasion that I drive my maximum hours I’m often in the truck stop within a few minutes of them and sometimes I beat them there.

In spite of having the full eight hours off, doing a proper pre-trip, sticking to the speed limit, doing a proper brake check, etc.

I still manage to cover the same ground, so with all the time those guys are saving, surely I could be a lot further down the road if I had the same advantages they appear to have?

The only thing is, I’ve already done about as much as it’s possible to legally do in one day, so what would be the point in getting my clock or speedometer “fixed”?

And would it be worth the effort trying to find one of those special hammers?

I don’t think so, I’m still getting the job done without them.

I may have to suffer the pain and anguish of doing a pre-trip, brake check or tire check by physically doing the necessary things, I may have to drive at the speed limit and take at least a full eight hours off each night, yet somehow I’m still getting the job done. Crazy, eh?

Okay, so I’ve been a little tongue in cheek there, but it leads me to where I’m going next, in a roundabout way.

So far I’ve bought a few accessories for my truck – all practical stuff. I’ve stayed away from lights and chrome so far. I’m slowly ticking off boxes from my wish list and the next two will help me in my pre-trips and brake checks.

I’m considering a tire pressure monitoring system.

This way I can know my tires are correctly inflated at all times.

It will save having to mess around on my hands and knees with a pressure gauge and instantly alert me if there’s a problem, so if I do pick up some debris and start losing air, I know right away and can stop as soon as possible to save damaging the tire any further.

I know it will cost me a lot more than a magic hammer, but I’m convinced it will save me money long term. The other thing is so simple that I’m amazed it isn’t fitted as standard, if not by the manufacturers, by fleets too. That is a set of brake stroke indicators.

Two little pegs that do exactly what it says on the tin, they indicate brake stroke.

One is fitted on the brake pot and the other is attached to the push rod, you only need to apply the brakes, get out and look at the position of the pegs to tell if you’re good to go down the hill, a very simple and highly effective addition I’m looking forward to using now that the ground and the underside of my tractor is going to be messy for the next few months.


A fourth generation trucker and trucking journalist, Mark Lee uses his 25 years of transcontinental trucking in Europe, Asia, North Africa and now North America to provide an alternative view of life on the road.

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