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Everything to Know About Weigh Stations

Everything to Know About Weigh Stations

Some truck drivers may see weigh stations as an inconvenience that keeps them from reaching their destination in time during their travel, but these stops are incredibly necessary for many reasons.

A truck driver is responsible for many things, and that includes stopping at a weigh station during their travel to ensure that their vehicle is safe for the road, with several inspections. Unitruck offers aftermarket parts for Freightliner M2s, Volvos, Macks, and more, to get your semi-truck back to the level of safety it needs.

There are also serious consequences for trucks that fail to meet the standards in place, which is why truck drivers need to be well-versed in everything there is to know about weigh stations as part of the job. Continue reading for what you need to know about weigh stations.

What is a Weigh Station?

A weigh station is an area off the highway where truck drivers pull over to have their truck weighed and inspected. They’re referred to as a “port of entry” when they’re near a state border, but they can also be in the interior of a state, especially in an area where there’s a lot of freight movement.

Why Weigh Stations Are Necessary

Semi-trucks are notoriously massive vehicles that carry a ton of weight and, because of this, some roads, bridges, and overpasses might not be able to handle the weight. This can not only pose a threat to others on the road, but it can also lead to structural damage to the surface a truck travels on. Weigh stations used to collect taxes if a heavier truck passed through because of how much more harm it can cause the road.

Today, weigh stations are a way to make sure that semi-trucks are safe for the road ahead, with an inspection to ensure the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) guidelines are followed. Without weigh stations, the road’s various risks would be much higher for all drivers.

What Happens at a Weigh Station?

It used to be that weigh stations did just what the name implies; weigh semi-trucks. Now, the role of a weigh station is much broader. In addition to weighing trucks to make sure they’re under the legal limit, (the federal limit is 80,000 pounds) weigh stations may also check to make sure that drivers are in compliance with all FMCSA and DOT regulations. This includes checking for HOS violations, looking at freight paperwork, and checking for other safety violations related to the truck, similar to a standard DOT inspection.

When approaching a weigh station, the driver will first look to see if it’s open. There will be flashing lights or a sign saying if it is or not. If it’s open, the driver will get in the correct lane and pull over, either getting in line to be weighed or driving up to the scale if it’s open. Some scales are portable, and the driver can be weighed while driving, while others are stationary and require the driver to stop the truck. Once the driver has been weighed, they’ll either be waved off or signal lights will let them know that they’re subject to a further inspection.    

Can I Bypass a Weigh Station?

If your carrier participates in a bypass solution like, PrePass or Drivewyze, then you may be able to.  These are mounted devices that can be put in your cab to alert you when a weigh station is approaching and if you’re able to bypass it or not. Be aware, there are some types of loads, like oversized and hazmat that always need to be checked, no matter if you have a bypass device. 

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What Happens to an Overweight Truck?

If you go through a weigh station and the truck doesn’t meet the legal requirements, there are a variety of consequences a driver may face. The punishment can differ in each state, but here is what a truck driver could potentially face:

  • Fines – An overweight truck can lead to a major fine or a ton of small fees and is all based on the state you are in. The fine can fall anywhere between $100 to $10,000. The fine you receive can also be based on how many offenses you have had in the past, with second offenses potentially costing double or triple the amount of a fine. Some states will even charge you based on how much you are over the limit.
  • Jail Time – The most severe punishment for driving an overweight truck could land you in jail with a sentence up to two months. If you are sentenced to jail time, states will also revoke a truck driver’s CDL license once legal proceedings take place.

A truck’s weight is a serious matter that a driver should be aware of when they are traveling. This is not just because it can cause harm to others, but also because of the expensive fines and potential prison time you could face.

While many drivers consider weigh stations a frustrating part of the job that adds time to their runs, they do serve a purpose. Weigh stations are meant to make sure that overweight trucks aren’t causing major damage to the country’s highways that could lead to major road maintenance, delays, and possible accidents. As long as drivers follow all posted signage and keep all their freight documents in the truck, they should be out of weigh stations and back on the road in no time.  

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6 Bad Habits That Will Destroy Your Vehicle Clutch

6 Bad Habits That Will Destroy Your Vehicle Clutch

A clutch may survive for more than 70,000 kilometers if adequately maintained, and some people have had their clutch plates changed as early as 10,000 kilometers.

If you live in a city, your typical driving schedule during rush hour must be something like this: clutch* brake* clutch* brake* clutch* brake*. This is quite damaging to your car’s clutch. Driving in the city or using the grip for long periods takes a toll on the automobile, the engine, and the clutch plate and leads to transmission clutch repair. Your automobile clutch experiences significant wear and tear because of your driving style and other things.

Several undesirable practices cause the clutch to fail considerably sooner than intended. Here are six terrible patterns that might sabotage the grip and should never be done.

1. For extra pick-up, slipping the clutch

It’s a prevalent belief that not entirely releasing the clutch pedal and accelerating leads to a stronger off-the-line start. Professional drivers maintain a tight balance between the clutch pressure plate location and the accelerator for excellent launches, which they accomplish via practice.

Slipping the clutch on purpose causes overheating and severe damage to the clutch plates, rendering them useless considerably sooner than they should be. Doing so slows you down rather than making your automobile accelerate quicker. Due to partial clutch engagement, the gearbox does not get the entire amount of power delivered by the engine. Always release the clutch smoothly and as fast as possible for the smoothest starts and accelerations.

2. Riding the clutch

Riding the clutch is one of the most common and straightforward mistakes rookie drivers make while driving a manual gearbox. However, we’ve seen many expert drivers do it as well. Riding the clutch entails driving the automobile without fully releasing the clutch pedal. Although diesel automobiles have a firmer grip, putting your foot on the clutch in a petrol vehicle destroys the clutch plate and reduces fuel efficiency. In this situation, the slight pressure on the clutch lever prevents the clutch mechanism from thoroughly engaging, causing it to slip a little, resulting in abnormal clutch wear.

3. The foot is resting on the clutch

Because most automobiles don’t have a dead pedal, many individuals end up resting their foot on the clutch, which is a terrible habit. Diesel automobiles, as previously said, have a little stricter grip and can thus withstand the strain of a lightly maintained foot, but always ensure that your foot is not depressing the clutch pedal at all. On the other hand, petrol automobiles have a light clutch while having different clutch plate functions, and even the slightest weight causes the pedal to release the clutch partly. This causes rapid slippage and wears and a reduction in fuel economy.

4. Too quickly releasing the clutch

The holy trinity panel (accelerator, clutch, and brake) must work perfectly for the automobile to perform at its best. Most professional drivers learn how to use the grip flawlessly early in their careers. Many people who drive automobiles regularly release the clutch too quickly, causing the car to jolt and unnecessary strain on the engine and transmission. This causes the clutch to overheat again, causing it to deteriorate.

According to the clutch working principle, when the first gear is engaged and the clutch is gently released, the clutch plates engage, moving the gearbox and the automobile forward. If the clutch is terminated abruptly, the stationary gearbox will apply opposing force, causing the clutch to wear out considerably faster than typical. Quickly removing the grip might potentially cause catastrophic transmission damage.

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5. Using the clutch pedal during traffic signals

It’s like killing the clutch yourself if you keep the grip pinned down, knowing you’re not going to move for the next 20 seconds. Stop and put the car in neutral if you know the automobile will be motionless for long. This disengages the clutch and allows you to rest your leg for a moment. Keeping the grip held down for lengthy periods might ruin the clutch assembly’s ball bearing and can lead you to visit a local truck engine repair shop. Although the bearings can be replaced, this can only be done after removing the entire set-up. As a general rule, the less your car’s critical components, such as the engine and gearbox, are opened, the longer it will likely operate without problems.

6. Clutch balancing

Said clutch balancing is the process of keeping the automobile on an incline while utilizing the clutch and accelerator. While such maneuvers should be performed using the brakes, clutch balancing causes the transmission clutch repair. Certain situations can result in immediate clutch failure, mainly if the clutch is already worn out. Clutch balance shortens the clutch’s life and places excessive stress on other moving elements. While the clutch sends enough power to the transmission to keep the car from rolling backward, it also causes the grip to slide and heat up excessively, resulting in significant damage.

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What To Do If You Start Having Truck Brake Issues

What To Do If You Start Having Truck Brake Issues

Semi-trucks weigh somewhere between 35,000 and 80,000 pounds. That is a lot of weight to stop once it gets going, which is what makes the braking system so vital on a semi. Having a damaged, improperly functioning or worn-out brake system is a danger to all those on the roadways. Therefore, it’s important for drivers to be aware of brake issues that could plague their rig and know what signs to look for to get ahead of the problem.

What Kind of Brakes Do Semi Trucks Use?

Before looking at what can go wrong, one should consider the makeup of the semi-truck brakes themselves. Most semi-trucks utilize a brake system consisting of three parts. This includes air brakes, parking brakes, and emergency brakes.

The overall system is cleverly designed and works amazingly well in most cases. Air brakes utilize friction, which is applied to the brake pad to compress the air that’s stored within the truck’s tank to push against a piston that will put pressure on the brake pad.

Parking brakes are another element of the system, and they keep the rig from rolling away when parked, hence the name. Emergency brakes, as one might imagine, are equally important to large machines like big rigs. Some rigs are even equipped with automatically engaging emergency brakes, though others must be manually engaged.

Common Semi-Truck Brake Issues

The following are some of the most common causes of semi brake issues:

1. Imbalanced Brakes

Brake shoes come in pairs. Therefore, they are meant to wear evenly. However, in some cases, they become imbalanced and wear improperly or unevenly. This makes one side weaker and can lead to brake issues. Signs of this include squeaking or scraping noises, or a truck that is less responsive to braking than designed.

2. Improper Loading

Loading a rig correctly is vitally essential, as improper loading can cause all sorts of issues, not excluding problems in stopping.

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3. Improper maintenance

Brakes, as well as many other aspects of a semi, need to be constantly maintained to ensure they are working as designed. We aren’t talking about a minor issue if a huge semi-truck can’t stop. This is serious. So, maintenance is a must, especially for the braking system and the emergency backups.

4. Over-braking

Drivers don’t want to overtax the braking system by braking needlessly or using excessive force.

5. Brake Fade

Brake fades occur when drivers inadvertently overheat the brake drums by over-braking or over-pumping the brakes. Brakes fades are a weakness of the air brake system. Creating this issue can be avoided by using short, hard, intermittent brake applications instead of holding the brakes for long periods of time.

6. Brake Lock

This happens when the brake shoe on the truck becomes stuck. Signs of this include a sluggish acceleration, almost like the truck is being held back. This is because the shoe is struggling to release itself after being engaged.

7. Damaged Airline

Due to its air system, brakes can become damaged when certain parts of the truck’s airline itself are either punctured, cracked or broken. This means the air is no longer being pressurized properly and can lead to ineffective braking.

What To Do if You Experience Brake Failure

There is nothing scarier for a truck driver than being unable to make their rig stop due to brake issues. Some ways experienced drivers can offset these issues and keep themselves and others on the roadways safe are as follows:

  • Downshift
  • Use the emergency brake to stop.
  • Pump brakes (if hydraulic)
  • Find an escape route
  • Use an escape ramp

Keep all the information outlined above in mind to ensure the semi brake system is functioning properly.

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4 Tips to Improve Your Gas Mileage

4 Tips to Improve Your Gas Mileage

Improving fuel economy not only saves drivers money, but also benefits the environment by releasing fewer emissions into the air and reduces a nation’s dependence on oil and oil imports. Reducing the amount of driving we do—by carpooling, using public transportation, and combining trips—has the greatest effect on how much gas each person uses.

 

Drive More Efficiently

Our driving habits have a significant impact on fuel efficiency.

1. Go Easy on the Pedal

Speeding, braking, and rapid acceleration waste gas. Depending on the type of vehicle, poor driving habits can negatively affect fuel economy between 15% and 30%. Based on the current national average of $3.09 per gallon (for regular gasoline), driving sensibly, and not like a race car driver, can lead to an equivalent gas savings of between 31 cents and $1.24 per gallon.

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2. Slow Down

Gas mileage efficiency tends to decrease above 50 miles per hour. According to fueleconomy.gov, for every five miles per hour that exceed 50 mph, drivers pay an equivalent of about 22 cents more for each gallon of gas. While each vehicle has its own optimal speed for fuel efficiency, speeding can result in 7% to 14% reduced fuel economy. Driving at slower speeds can save 22 to 43 cents per gallon.

3. Turn off the Car

Idling gets zero miles per gallon and collectively consumes several billion gallons of fuel per year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The California Energy Commission (CEC) advises that vehicles should be turned off if the expected wait will be longer than 10 seconds, since an idling vehicle can burn as much as one gallon of gas each hour.

Turning the car off can save about 3 cents per minute.

4. Fill Your Tank Early in the Morning—or Late at Night

Fuel is dispensed by volume. If you fill your tank when it is coolest outside—early in the morning or late at night, and avoid the heat of the day—the fuel will be denser. As a result, you will get more gas for the same amount of money.

The Bottom Line

Reducing the amount of driving we do, whether it’s by carpooling or foregoing an unnecessary trip, is perhaps the most effective way to decrease the amount of gas that each person uses and make fill-ups at the gas station last longer. Proactive steps can be taken to improve fuel efficiency by paying attention to and changing gas-guzzling driving habits, and following a vehicle’s maintenance schedule. Improved gas mileage is good for you, good for your car, and good for the environment.

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Five Tactics to Reduce Stress for Truckers

Five Tactics to Reduce Stress for Truckers

For a truck driver, stress can be all around you. From driving long hours, meeting deadlines, driving through hectic traffic, or simply being away from a support system, like family and friends, it’s easy to see how driving a truck can create a lot of stress for a person. However, stress doesn’t have to ruin your day or affect your health. With healthy tactics to cope with your stressors, you can alleviate your stress and its control over you.

Stress is a natural response that your body goes through when the pressures of life, work, or family come into play. This natural response can create a wide range of reactions on your body – adrenaline, increased heart rate, or sometimes clouded thoughts. Unfortunately, the way you cope with it can affect your job or even your personal life.

Keep reading as we discuss some of the most popular techniques to overcome truck driver stress, all of which can easily be done on the road (some while not driving, mind you):

1. Meditate

Before starting the engine, take a moment to meditate. Clear your head and regulate your breathing – doing this will allow you to start your day with a clear head. Meditation can also relax the muscles by effectively alleviating tension on your body and creating more mental clarity. Meditating before or after your driving shift has many benefits, including these, and understanding why meditation is good for your overall health will create more peace in your life.

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2. Listen to Audiobooks or Podcasts

Audiobooks and podcasts can be great ways to get your mind off your stressors – driving-related or not. Before you start driving, pick a compelling book or podcast that peaks your interest – not something that might put you to sleep! Allowing yourself to listen to the words spoken aloud might give you the opportunity to catch up on some reading, news, or interesting thoughts, but it can also help take your mind off your stressor(s). As you listen, however, just make sure you’re always properly focused on driving safely!

3. Get Out and Stretch

If you are at a truck stop, gas station, or rest area, take a minute to stretch. Stretching can relax the muscles that might be tense from your long drive – moreover, it can clear your mind and help prepare you for the remainder of your drive.

4. Listen to Music

If audiobooks or podcasts aren’t your things, listen to music instead. When you are in a stressful situation, try playing calming music, such as classical music or something even simpler, like ocean sounds or babbling brooks (if you’re driving, or if you know that calming music can make you drowsy, turn it off once your stress has subsided). However, if you don’t like classical or other calming music, just pick an artist, genre, or song that you will enjoy – find the music that helps you take your mind off your stressors and makes you happy (not tenser)!

5. Be Mindful

Most people are thrown into stressful situations that they have no control over, and they waste energy focusing on things that they can’t change (bad drivers, heavy traffic, weather, road reroutes, and changes at work or in the industry, to name a few). And, while it’s great to try to create positive changes when you can, it’s also important to be mindful of the situations – or thoughts – that you just need to step away from. Be mindful of the situations or topics that cause you stress, and try to avoid them. If situations or thoughts that trigger these stressors pop up, try to think about things that make you happy, or try any one of the steps above!

Don’t Let Stress Control You

Stress is a natural thing that almost everyone encounters on the job, but for truck drivers, that stress often multiplies. We know that dealing with life on the road, as well as leaving behind family for various periods of time, can be very stressful. That’s why we hope these healthy ways to relieve stress while driving, along with many more ideas on the web, will help ensure that stress doesn’t control you. If these tactics to control truck driver stress don’t work for you, or if you’re dealing with long-term stress, anxiety, or depression, be sure to seek medical help from a professional.

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