BE PREPARED: Preparing for winter year-round will help avoid surprises when the snow begins to fly.
CALGARY, Alta. – Guiding a fully loaded truck across iced asphalt and blanketing snowfall is all a part of doing business in a country affectionately known as the Great White North.
Although a stretch of -30C weather is inevitable, many folks would prefer enjoying the summer sun; rather than worry about colder temperatures brought on by an approaching winter season.
But if you’re not thinking about the winterization of your truck during all 12 months of the year, the winter may seem like a crueler and longer season.
“If you try to do it all at the beginning of winter you’ll fall behind; if you do the maintenance year-round you’ll be all set to go,” explained Bill Arthur, maintenance manager with L.E. Walker Transport. “It’s very important. It’s a must; otherwise you’ll be in trouble. It takes twice as long to get things done in the winter with road service calls.”
Arthur has held the role of maintenance manager with L.E. Walker since 1988 and in his total of 33 years with the company has helped steer the fleet through a number of winters.
“It’s an important part of anyone’s maintenance program. From my experience the road service is costly and it’s tough to get technicians out on the road in the winter,” he added.
Steve Plaskos, maintenance manager with the City of Toronto, was the recent recipient of the Volvo Canadian Fleet Maintenance Manager of the Year Award and his winterization plans also follow the year-round philosophy.
“Our preparation starts when we convert our vehicles back to summer use; when we wash out any salt accumulation in the brake valves,” Plaskos told Truck News. “We use lots of aluminum brake valves that will erode when they get wet, so basically our process starts six months prior. It’s a real safety factor and something we have to keep an eye on.”
Stay ahead of the weather
Proper maintenance checks throughout the year will help limit the amount of surprises during winter, but a thorough inspection before the cold season arrives is also a good idea.
“We have a couple hundred tractors to get through so we get it done during regular service intervals at the end of September and into the beginning of October, so it’s done by mid-November before the cold weather sets in,” noted Arthur.
To be sure each vehicle gets a proper once-over, Arthur developed an additional service checklist, which is required for each truck during the pre-winter inspection.
“It’s a check system over and above our normal everyday service routine,” he explained. “It’s required at the beginning of winter and checked throughout the winter. I like to have it verified at the beginning to know everything is in working condition.”
The City of Toronto’s fleet ranges in the area of 7,000 units, which includes about 800 Class 8 vehicles. Plaskos and his team try to coordinate the equipment’s switch to dedicated winter service during an annual inspection where the integrity of each vehicle is examined.
“Because of our seasonal equipment, part of our maintenance package is an end of season inspection package, where we drain anything that holds water, lube everything and rustproof anything that may be stored outside,” he added.
Aside from keeping a watchful eye on how the truck runs, there are a few items that will help the truck perform better when the elements are against it.
“One thing you want is good tires,” said Arthur. “That’s when we install new drive tires on the tractor and it gives the driver some time to get used to the new tires before it’s cold, with safety being the main concern. One other thing now is to make sure the air-dryer and air-system is clear with no moisture or contamination.”
At the same time, Arthur ensures the trucks in his fleet have been equipped with winter windshield wiper blades and checks the battery condition for hard starting in the winter.
“Specifically at the beginning of winter, make sure your battery is in good order,” added Arthur. “Everything else should be up to snuff throughout the year.”
For the City of Toronto the winter preparations for its equipment sometimes require a step beyond an oil change, filter change and lube job.
“Because we have a lot of dual-purpose vehicles we like to make use of as many as we can throughout the whole year,” said Plaskos. “We have lots of dump trucks hauling around benches and other things in the summer and for the winter we change them to spread salt.”
New and improved
Changing the dump boxes on Toronto’s diverse fleet was once an onerous task. Technology has reduced the time a season changeover will take and allows vehicles to be used year-round.
“Prior to amalgamation when we took the dump box off and put on a v-spreader, it was a lot of work,” noted the city’s maintenance manager. “There’s new equipment out there now which is a lot easier to change over. We buy dump trucks now that can switch over in about half an hour.”
Rustproof is another product improvement that is essential to the winterization of Plaskos’ fleet and his vehicles undergo the process twice each year.
Technology improvements have also had a positive impact in the ability to monitor the engine without having to take everything apart.
“Diagnostic reports have made it a bit easier to monitor the engine’s performance, but you really have to specifically take a look at these things to make sure they’re working,” explained Arthur.
Take a closer look
Even with year-round attention and a thorough checklist it is possible that some aspects of a truck may get overlooked, but taking the proper time to ensure everything is in good working order will pay off in the long run.
“It’s important to have a safe operating vehicle and to extend the life cycle, which will increase what you get back when you dispense of them,” explained Plaskos.
“They’re all very important points,” concluded Arthur. “Anything that relates to driver comfort, you want to make sure that it’s in good condition.”
Are you ready for winter? If you’re operating trucks in Canada, you better be! The 12 checkpoints for Bill Arthur’s pre-winter truck inspection are:
* coolant freeze protection;
* coolant conditioner, which is measured in ppm;
* rad cap, seal and pressure check;
* radiator, air-cooler and air-conditioner condenser;
* water pump leakage;
* hose condition;
* belt conditions;
* block heater operation;
* add coolant and check the strength;
* thermostat operation;
* heater performance, fan speed of ducts in the system;