Feb 1, 2011 12:00 PM
Getting parked trucks back into service, on the road hauling freight
CHECKING out idled trucks used for spare parts during the economic downturn before they return to service will be particularly important now that new federal safety regulations have taken effect, says Chris Harrison, general manager of CIT Kenworth of Morton, Illinois.
At the end of last year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) implemented the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program (http://csa2010.fmcsa.dot.gov/), which places greater emphasis on truck maintenance and includes more stringent penalties for violations.
Harrison and managers from CIT Group Inc locations in Joliet and Normal, Illinois, offer truck operators a number of recommendations for reviewing and returning vehicles to service. Andy Cox, service manager for CIT Kenworth of Chicago in Joliet, says the practice of using idled trucks for spare parts was common among companies from linehaul carriers to construction companies.
Cox recommends a parts inventory and fleet maintenance tracking program, something like the PremierCare Connect system offered by Kenworth Truck Company. The Connect system is particularly useful because it can help fleets keep track of needed repairs, particularly those identified by the drivers, which CSA will require. It also links the service department directly to the parts department at the local dealer. The hosted system can then be set to automatically order high-demand parts.
“One of the issues we run into is where parts have been taken off of sidelined trucks, but no records were kept of which parts were removed,” Cox says. “So if mechanics took off a fuel pressure sensor, for example, and no one wrote it down, then nobody would notice until somebody tried to start the truck.”
The CSA program identifies 10 different groups of parts and accessories that the federal government considers critical for safe operation. Among them are lamps, reflective devices, electrical wiring, brakes, glazing and window construction, fuel systems, coupling devices including fifth wheels, miscellaneous equipment such as heaters, and frames, and cab and body components.
Harrison and Scott Dehm, body shop manager at Central Illinois Kenworth in Normal, recommend that the following steps be included in the process for putting vehicles back into service:
- Check the fuel tanks, fuel lines, and fuel filters. During the winter, water or moisture can condensate on top of the fuel tank from the fuel constantly freezing and thawing. The lower the fuel level in the tank, the bigger the problem can be. Algae can form from the condensation — not on the diesel fuel itself — and can contaminate the fuel.
- If algae is found, the truck should be towed to a repair facility that can drain the fuel tank, the fuel pump, and fuel lines; properly dispose of the contaminated fuel; and clean the injectors and filters. Do not use diesel additives to treat algae in a fuel tank, because that can make the contamination problem worse, particularly if the truck has a 2007 model or newer engine. Newer engines depend on a fuel with very low sulfur content in order to meet the strict emission limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency or the California Air Resources Board.
- Replace damaged fuel tanks with OEM-quality replacement tanks. For instance, TRP Aftermarket Parts offers replacement fuel tanks made by an ISO-certified manufacturer that uses the same thickness and grade of aluminum standards called for by the truck builders.
- Check engine oil seals. When trucks sit for long periods of time without being routinely started and allowed to run for brief amounts of time, the rubber in the seals can actually dry out and deteriorate.
- Examine drive belts, hoses, fittings and adaptors,plus the exhaust system for leaks. If parts need to be replaced, choose quality replacements like those offered by Dynacraft and TRP Aftermarket Parts.
Harrison says that the process of returning an idled truck to service should include a check-out by a trained qualified technician since CSA establishes vehicle maintenance as one of seven categories under which carriers will be examined.
Harrison and Dehm also recommend a number of maintenance steps truck operators and maintenance managers can take to be prepared for CSA-related inspections:
- Wash the truck and trailer routinely, particularly dur-ing the winter season to remove chemical deicers and road salts from trucks and trailers. Routine washings not only prevent corrosion of the body, they also prevent buildup and potential damage to truck and trailer electrical systems and wheel components including brakes. Routine washings also help prevent build up of road salts on fifthwheels, which can cause them to seize up. Quality brake components, like the spring brake chambers offered by TRP Aftermarket Parts, feature coatings that protect against rust jacking caused by chemicals and road salts. However, allowing calcium chlorides and salts to settle on truck and trailer parts for long periods of time can encourage premature damage, particularly if any cracks or chips develop in the protective coating.
- Develop a routine maintenance program for trailers that includes periodic inspections and replacement of trailer brakes such as the spring brake chambers offered by TRP. Trailers often sit unused for long periods of time in trucking operations.
- Consider a replacement program for truck, tractor, and trailer lights. New light emitting diode (LED) lighting products, like those available from TRP Aftermarket Parts, can enhance detection of the vehicle or trailer when it's parked in a dark or dimly lit parking lot or on the side of a road, something that's particularly important in the dead of winter.
- Follow engine manufacturers' recommendations for regular valve adjustments and DPF filter cleanings, like the FSX cleaning service provided by participating Kenworth and Peterbilt dealers for trucks equipped with 2007 or later compliant emission systems.
- Conduct regular analysis of engine oil condition. This can help identify potential failures prior to a major expense or downtime.
“As with any vehicle or trailer, regular preventive maintenance properly conducted can identify the potential for problems in the shop before they occur on the road or become a violation of the new federal regulations,” Harrison says.
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