How to Handle a Semi Truck Breakdown
Owning or operating a semi truck or other heavy truck in Quebec means following the rules, having your truck inspected regularly and maintaining your truck to standard. Mandatory inspections and programs include the Pre-Trip Inspection (PTI), the Mandatory Periodic Mechanical Inspection, and the Preventive Maintenance Program (PMP).
Even if you maintain your semi truck properly, breakdowns and other mechanical failures are common on the road. If you are having a big rig breakdown right now, don’t panic! Put your safety and other road users’ safety first, and find out what the problem is with the help of Transport Econo Nord, our Montreal trucking company.
What to do if your semi truck breaks down
We know a breakdown can be stressful. What kind of breakdown is it? How long will it take to repair? Will I be able to get back on the road and finish my workday?
You are probably asking these questions right now! The most important thing to do first is limit the risks to yourself and other road users.
Step 1: Protect yourself
If possible, get to a rest stop. This is safer for both your truck and its load. It is easier to repair or tow your truck from a rest stop.
If you can’t make it to a rest area, try to pull over so you don’t block traffic. Put on a safety vest and turn on your flashers (hazard lights), dome lights or headlights to make your truck visible to other drivers. Get out on the side away from the traffic and move to a safe location.
Step 2: Call for help
Call 9-1-1, your local service department, or a mobile repair company for your heavy truck.
Be precise when you tell us your location, the symptoms of the breakdown, the type of vehicle and the load. Speak calmly to make communication easier. Clear and detailed information will allow us to do our job more quickly and efficiently.
The most common semi-truck breakdowns
As part of our LTL shipping and trucking business, our drivers share with you the most common breakdowns and the ones they fear the most when they hit the road.
Flat or burst tires
Tire punctures or blowouts are the most common cause of semi truck breakdowns on Quebec roads. Tires explode when the tread separates and the tire loses air quickly.
Using old tires with low tread depth, or a truck with a mis-aligned axel leading to uneven tire wear, can contribute to the likelihood of having a blowout.
Other situations that can trigger a tire blowout include tire overinflation and improper mounting of the tire to the rim. A design defect in the tire, overloading or any sudden impact can weaken, break or rupture the tire.
The battery is one of the most essential parts of your truck’s electronics. If you have tools that malfunction, lights that don’t light up or you have trouble starting, you may be dealing with a battery problem.
In these cases, you should stop your heavy truck to avoid exacerbating the breakdowns and endangering yourself until your battery is replaced.
Running out of fuel
More common than one might think, it is possible to have forgotten to stop and fill up with gas before setting off again. This in itself is not a serious mistake, but it can cost you a lot of time.
The more you drive with a full load, which can be the case for a full truckload shipping, the more you have to be careful about the gas level. Indeed, heavy loads have an impact on the gas consumption of your vehicle.
Cooling system failure
A semi truck cooling system has several components (radiator, thermostat, fan, etc.) that work together to maintain engine temperature.
The most common causes of a cooling system breakdown are high temperatures or lack of maintenance. Check that there are no leaks in the cooling system and that the coolant level is high enough.
If you don’t see anything wrong with either of these, the problem may be more complicated. A more extensive service will reveal the real source of the problem.
Water pump failure
The water pump makes sure that coolant circulates through the engine to keep it at an optimal temperature.
Water pump failure is common in vehicles of all sorts during hot summer months.
Timing belt failure
The timing belt controls the camshafts in your engine. It opens and closes the intake and exhaust valves. It also activates the oil pump, the water pump and the injector on diesel engines.
Timing belts should usually be replaced every 100,00 km. There’s not much you can do if the belt breaks or is damaged, so prevention is key.
ABS (Anti-lock Braking System)
The ABS is an extremely important part for vehicle safety. Unfortunately, it is one of the most common electronic systems to fail on a semi truck, causing the truck to skid or lose traction (or even flip) under heavy breaking conditions.
Semi trucks have a light that indicates whether the ABS is working. If the light is on, verify whether the ABS is functioning. Contact a mechanic quickly to fix this potentially deadly problem.
Body Control Module (BCM)
The body control module is responsible for functions related to driver comfort, such as the air conditioning and radio.
While a malfunctioning BCM may not directly impact the semi truck’s performance, driver comfort is essential for responsible driving and overall road safety.
Electronic Braking System (EBS)
The electronic braking system or EBS is another vital system on a semi truck. It regulates the brakes, breaking reaction time, ABS, and more. A functioning EBS can reduce braking distance by a few metres.
If your ABS light is on, it could signal an EBS malfunction. Drivers can often detect an EBS malfunction by paying attention to how the truck handles.
If one side of the truck seems to be braking more strongly than the other, or if you feel a ‘push’ when you brake, chances are the EBS is the problem. Contact a mechanic if you suspect this is your problem.
Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)
This is a relatively new system that helps a driver maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front. You can still drive safely if it malfunctions – just don’t use it. Even when using it, a responsible driver will stay aware of what’s happening on the road and how close they are to other vehicles. If it stops working, visit a mechanic.
Prevent the risk of a semi truck breakdown
Breakdowns involve more than simple repair costs. Wasted driver and truck time leads to delays in deliveries and can impact the quality of your service. It is important to take your truck in for regular mechanical inspection and maintenance.
At Econo Nord, we always maintain our trucks to ensure maximum reliability when transporting goods and to provide a pleasant working environment for our drivers. If you are interested in a career with a transport company, please feel free to contact us for further information.