Driving in mountainous areas is unavoidable if you are in the hotshot trucking business. It’s already challenging to drive uphill and downhill with just a vehicle, so much more if you are towing a fully loaded trailer. Mountain driving can be challenging even among experienced drivers as it requires a specialized skill set. If you get intimidated, these safety driving tips can help you gain confidence:
1. Check the weather before the trip.
Weather conditions along mountainous roads can quickly change from bad to worse, and failure to plan ahead can be tragic. If the weather is already bad, you can check for an alternate route that has no steep grades. It there is no other way, you could reschedule your trip or just prepare for it.
Be on the lookout for chain signs. Chain before your actual descend or ascend. If it is an icy road, it’s better to just stay put and wait until the chain up signs are down.
2. Mind the grade.
Overconfidence is one of the major causes for accidents, regardless of the terrain. Even if you are familiar with the place and have driven there in the past, do not let your guard down especially when you are tackling a steep grade. Don’t just trust on intuition but always be on the lookout for grade signs along the road. They will remind you of the ideal speed and gear you should maintain as you climb or descend.
It could take time to climb or descend a grade and it is not something you need to rush. Also, don’t make the mistake of speeding as you near the bottom or top of the hill as this can cause an accident. You can’t be sure if the road is clear of obstacles or unexpected curves. It is always best to stay on the safe side.
3. Go slow and steady.
If you are going down, it can be difficult to regain control once your vehicle and trailer gains momentum. You don’t want that to happen. On the other hand, pushing your vehicle too hard when climbing a steep grade can cause your engine to overheat.
The best way to reach the other side of a mountain route is to drive slowly and steadily. Doing so gives you full control of the vehicle and avoids overheating the engine. Also, turn the engine fan on and always check on the temperature gauge.
4. Retain traction.
To keep your traction on a slippery road, you can follow these tips:
- Use all the drive wheels to aid you in climbing.
- Do not follow the tracks of the vehicles ahead of you. You could drive a bit to the right to create your own set of tracks.
- Don’t use too much fuel to prevent the wheels from spinning uncontrollably. Put in power gradually.
- Watch the engine and make sure it is close to the top of the RPM range. This is an extra measure because in case the wheels spin, they can’t spin for much longer upon hitting the limiter than if you keep the RPM at low range.
5. Do not Tailgate
Tailgating can never be more dangerous than when you are climbing or descending. Leave as much room from the vehicle in front of you. In case the vehicle in front of you suddenly brakes, you still have room to slow down and stop, and avoid a collision or jackknifing your trailer.
If for some reason you start losing control of the trailer, try bringing your wheels to the shoulder of the road (if possible). Doing so allows you to get better traction from the gravel which can hopefully help straighten your unit.
While we do not hope for the worst things to happen, it’s always good to be prepared and to take precautionary measures and follow safety driving tips when traversing mountain routes. Regardless if you are a rookie or an experienced driver, they can help you avoid accidents and reach your destination with no problem.