Encountering major grades is one of the most difficult things you will encounter as a truck driver. It is critical that all truck drivers know how to safely drive on mountain roads.
Below are some good tips for new truck drivers or truckers who maybe have not had to navigate their big rigs through the mountains in a while.
How do you drive a truck down a mountain?
Descending a grade can be very dangerous if you are not following applicable safety protocols. And mountain driving can be intimidating even for veteran truckers.
1. Check for Grade Signs
Don’t assume you can judge a hill just by looking at it. Always look for grade signs, and when in doubt, go slower than you think you need to.
2. Go Slow
Always start your descent at a lower speed than the posted speed limit. As you go downhill, you will pick up speed, especially if you’re hauling a heavy load. And if you start off too fast, it will be much more difficult to recover. Better to go too slow than go too fast.
3. Use Hazard Lights
It’s good practice to turn on your hazard lights when navigating potentially dangerous road conditions. Since you’re driving below the posted speed limit, turn on your hazards for your safety and the safety of other drivers.
4. Be Aware of Road Conditions
If the road conditions are not ideal, it is even more important to drive slowly to avoid skidding and sliding. Pay attention to weather reports, and remember that mountain weather can change quickly. You can always check to see if there’s an alternate route without a steep grade to be extra cautious.
5. Stay Alert
It’s easy to feel confident driving on routes that you regularly run, but be wary of being overconfident, especially on downgrades. Unexpected obstacles, like a disabled vehicle or a patch of ice, can be very treacherous if you’re not paying attention.
What are safety tips for driving up a mountain?
Driving uphill presents its own set of risks and safety precautions. Below are some important things to remember before you find yourself at the bottom of a steep hill with a treacherous climb ahead of you.
1. Keep the Engine Cool
Overheating the truck’s engine is probably the most common issue when driving up a steep grade. You can still overheat your engine in the winter if you’re not careful. When you know you’ll be approaching a mountain, turn on the engine fan. Keep your eye on the temperature gauge and don’t wait until the engine is already too hot.
2. Go Slow
Just like going downhill, go slow when ascending a mountain or hill. If you push your truck too hard and too fast, you’ll end up overheating your engine.
3. Make Your Own Tracks
When traction is bad, don’t follow in the tracks made by trucks in front of you. Pull a little to the right to try to improve your traction and prevent sliding.
4. Engage the Drive Wheels
Another thing to help when traction is poor is to engage all your drive wheels. This will help you pull the truck up the hill.
5. Be Conservative with Fuel
If you give too much fuel, you’ll risk spinning your wheels. Gradually hit the gas just enough to get you going up the hill without giving it too much.
6. Install Chains at the Bottom
Tire chains help your drive tires cut through ice and snow to improve traction. If you see signs indicating that you need to put chains on your wheels when driving in winter or in snowy/icy conditions, do so at the bottom of the hill. Don’t wait for it to become a problem before you put your chains on.
7. It’s Okay to Wait
Nobody likes delaying their trip for any reason, but don’t be afraid to pull off the road if conditions are too hazardous and you can’t detour around a steep grade. Better to arrive late than risk everything trying to maneuver in deadly road conditions.
When driving OTR, you’ll inevitably have to drive up and down hills and mountains with various grades. Keep these safety tips in mind when planning your trip, and obey all applicable safety laws when navigating slippery, icy, or otherwise dangerous ro