The Weather

Welcome to the CFI Drivers Weather Center.

The weather has the potential to completely ruin your day if you let it. Your family wants you to come home safely and so does your company. Remember that Safety is Job #1.

Winter Check List

  • Tire chains; Make sure you have a full set and they are in good condition (sometimes it is very difficult to find these out on the road).
  • All CFI trucks have an auxiliary bunk heater. Check the function now. Remember they have not been operated for several months. It may take a couple of attempts to get them fired up. If your bunk heater is inoperable contact Road Service so we can get you to a shop.
  • Have winter clothing (many thin layers afford more warmth than one bulky layer). You would be surprised how many drivers we spoke with who did not have winter clothing and were broke down on the side of the road.
  • Carry a blanket or two and a sleeping bag for warmth in emergencies.
  • Have a flashlight with fresh or rechargeable batteries.
  • If you have a cellphone, make sure it is fully charged.
  • Keep water and food items on hand.

If you are confronted with bad weather call your Fleet Manager and let them know you have decided to wait it out. Your FM will be happy with your decision and will thank you for being safe.

Remember, customer's prefer that their freight is delivered safely - even if it is delayed a little by the weather.

On November 1, CFI opened Com-data Cards for all Company Drivers to purchase fuel additives to minimize fuel gelling.

$30.00 will be the maximum purchase amount in a 24-hour period. If you need to purchase additional additive within the 24-hour period, you must have your Fleet Supervisor's approval. Once you obtain approval from your FM please use Form 23 to communicate purchase details for reimbursement. Remember, you only need to purchase fuel additive if you are heading into an area that is going to be below 15 degrees. Planning your trip is critical to ensure that you minimize fuel gelling.

Protect Your Fuel

Anyone who has been driving for a while will have at least heard of "Gelled Up Fuel".  Hopefully you have only heard about it and not actually experience it because when the Diesel Fuel in a vehicle Gells the driver is placed in a dangerous situation.  If you are like me you weren't taught anything about the fact or dangers of Gelled fuel when you attending driving school and had to either learn about it from your peers or through a very memorable experience.

I knew about the possibility before I experienced the event.  Back in the day when the Government mandated "Low Sulfur Diesel" there were a few unexpected consequences which didn't see much exposure in the News.  One such problem was that the Low Sulfur Diesel had an effect on rubber seals in the cooling system where they were exposed to the fuel.  The Mack I was driving used Glycol from the engine to warm the fuel through pipes which fed the coolant through the fuel tanks.  We lost an engine to severe damage before we realized that the Glycol was mixing with the fuel.  As an interim measure to protect the fuel from such contamination the coolant lines to the fuel tanks were shut off.

It would have been helpful if someone had told me that is what had been done, especially when I found myself loosing power on an Interstate just south of Chicago in extremely cold weather.  Not only was my flammable tanker now parked on the side of a busy interstate I had lost my only source of heat and the temperature outside was well below zero.  I could see a TA Truckstop across a field but leaving the truck in such cold was not an option.  Several truckers called me on the radio to offer a ride but since my load was hazardous I elected to follow the rules and remain with it, at least for a while.  Finally a Chicago Cop showed up and I was out of the truck and into his car so fast that I interrupted his preparation to move into the cold outside; mask, gloves, heated jacket and so on.  I think I might have only just avoided being shot but that's another story.

At the time I hadn't fully appreciated the danger I was in.  In the two hours I had waited a bottle of water I had been drinking from had frozen solid.  I had added additional layers of clothing even though I was still inside the truck and it wasn't helping as much as I would have liked.  The Police Officer told me that another Trucker in a similar situation had been taken to the Hospital suffering from Frostbite.

So then, for the uninitiated, as we move into the winter weather season a little advise that will keep you safe and warm.

    Carry a couple of fuel filters in your truck.  I know this is not always possible but if you can get hold of them they will be helpful if the worst happens - if you also have a filter wrench to remove the old ones you will be better prepared.
    Carry a candle.  A simple candle in your cab, carefully supervised, will provide a heat source to warm your hands, remember to leave a window slightly open because you will need to breath and the flame will consume Oxygen.
    Carry a bottle of Anti-Gel.  Personally I would recommend a bottle of Howes but there are several on the market.
    Carry extra blankets
    Get a decent set of bad weather gear and gloves.  Personally I have a pair of insulated overalls which works for me.  I bought my gloves from a hunting store.

When the fuel temperature falls it begins to separate it's components, mostly waxy elements will become visible in your fuel.  If you look in your tanks (use a flashlight, not a match - duh!) you should see a clear yellowish liquid and you should be able to see the bottom of your tank.  If you can't, if it looks cloudy, you are beginning to Gel.  The fuel has begun to separate and the milkiness you can see is actually waxy particles which will quickly block your fuel filters to a point where the fuel will not flow.  You are now in trouble.

You can add an Anti Gel additive to your fuel and you might be okay at this point but probably not, the better idea would have been to add it to the fuel when it started getting cold.  Check the weather forecast and if you are going to be driving through an area where temperatures are expected to be below 15 degrees F take preventative action and add the Anti-Gel.

The Anti-Gel lowers the temperature at which the fuel will freeze.  Ultimately you will get to a point where the weather is so cold that the best thing you can do it get a Hotel Room, or perhaps you could prepare your truck in the same way those crazy Ice Trucker folks prepare theirs.

If you do find yourself on the side of the road get on the phone but don't get out and walk.  You can survive in the shelter of your truck for a lot longer than if exposed to the elements.  Use your CB if you need another truck to stop.

Here's a few more tips, these are free.

  • If you park on an ice covered slope and are worried about your rig sliding while you are sleeping, pour some water over the tires - you would be surprised how well the water locks a truck in place when it freezes.
  • Carry some Cat Litter.  If you are stuck in the snow a little of this under the wheels will give you some traction, maybe enough to get you going again without installing chains.  A bag of Rock Salt has also been suggested but while Salt will melt snow and ice it doesn't do it quickly.
  • Since it is possible for the Air Dryer to allow some small amount of water to contaminate the Braking System, mostly this happens to the trailers, if you have a bottle of rubbing alcohol in the truck, pour some of it into the trailer lines.  The Alcohol will keep the lines from freezing.
  • If you have a hammer with you it will be useful if your brake pads freeze to the drums.
  • An extra set of windshield wipers might prove helpful as winter ice is pretty hard on them.

    A quick word about Chains.

    Some States require that you have a full set of Chains on your truck.  You should be able to fully chain your Drive Tires and at least one Trailer Axle if drag chains are required.  Having chains in this case is the law but there is no law that says you have to put them on.  When the "Chain Law" is in force and crossing a mountain means you have to Chain up the choice is yours.  If you want to go you must Chain, if you don't want to Chain then you can't go.  Nobody is pushing you to make the run with chains on your tires.  Of course your load is potentially going to be late, someone is going to get a little heated under the collar and you are not going to get paid to just sit under the load but nobody is going to demand that you put on chains, at least not at CFI.  If you feel safe chaining up and running that is up to you but if you don't feel safe DON'T GO!

    My personal credo is; Chains are there to get you out of trouble, not to get you into it.

    CFI has issued Chains to your Truck, what they haven't given you is bungees.  In the classroom you will have seen how Chains are put on nice and firm.  In the real world with snow and ice and a minor hurricane trying to remove your underwear things are a little different and getting the Chains as tight as it was possible in an air conditioned classroom isn't likely.  The Bungees are used across the outer facing side to pull at the chains and keep them from becoming to loose.  They might have felt tight when you put them on but after a few miles they will become quite sloppy.  If you want to buy a special bungee as pictured to the right that is up to you but a few standard bungees will do the trick and is much cheaper.

    There is much to think of when Jack Frost comes around, remember that Safety is Job #1 and look after yourself.

    Drive Safely