Generally speaking, truckers try to avoid driving over mountain roads when they can. This can be treacherous work, especially for big rigs, but some routes simply require mountain driving.
With that in mind, truckers would be wise to brush up on some of the basics associated with safely driving a tractor trailer along winding mountain roads that bring with them lots of literal ups and downs. Here are just a few:
1) Monitor the grade
Whether you're climbing the mountain or coming down the other side, truckers have to be aware of exactly how steep the road will get, according to Smart Trucking. Most mountain roads will have signs posted advising you of the grade, but you should never try to guess. It can be frustrating for truckers to have to go so slow, but it's always better to be safe.
2) Try to avoid stopping - and speeding
It should go without saying that "slow and steady" is the proper approach to both ascending and descending the mountain, Smart Trucking added. After all, braking for any reason on the way up can lead trucks to get stuck or stall out, creating a dangerous situation for truckers and other motorists. Likewise, pro drivers should be prepared to ride the brakes and never pick up too much speed, simply because it can be difficult or even impossible to regain control of a truck afterward.
3) Downshift going up, and then again going down
One common issue truckers face when they're ascending a mountain is overheating because they had the vehicle in too high of a gear, according to House Trucking Insurance. Downshifting will help the truck work "smarter" to get up the hill. Likewise, when it's time to come down the other side of the mountain, downshifting even from that lower gear will help the truck run smoothly, since you'll be braking a lot on the ride back to flatter terrain.
4) Gas up first
A big issue truckers may face on a mountain is that there are few or no gas stations over 100 miles or more of road, according to Drive Safely. Compounding the issue is the fact that trucks often burn a lot of fuel on the ascent because of how hard the truck has to work. Getting a full tank before climbing a mountain is therefore essential, and will also help keep truckers safe if they get stranded due to bad conditions.
5) Be aware of the brakes
On downgrades, it can be difficult to maintain a reasonable, safe speed without applying the brakes frequently, Drive Safely added. That can cause a lot of wear and tear in a short time, so experts recommend using a "pulse" braking system. Once you know your ideal pace, you should allow the vehicle to speed up a little above that level, then brake until you're traveling at a little below it. This helps ensure brakes don't overheat.
As with a lot of other aspects of being a professional truck driver, navigating a mountain safely is a matter of common sense. As long as they're not putting trying to meet a certain deadline ahead of their own safety or that of other drivers, they'll likely be in good shape.
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