Keeping class 8 trucks and trailers running safe and efficient requires a team of mechanics to ensure the maintenance needs of the equipment are addressed in a timely manner. In this article, we will talk about the little details that are often missed that lead to major issues and we will talk about a subject that is often overlooked – connection management issues.
As the maintenance team performs the needed service and inspections of the trucks and trailers, a keen focus is needed to ensure the little details don’t get missed. One small thing that is overlooked can lead to a major issue. It’s these small details that often get overlooked and can lead to bigger problems.
Follow a Structured Maintenance Plan for Trucks and Trailers
All commercial trucks and trailers are required to be regularly inspected. Preventative maintenance and regular repairs keep the equipment running at peak performance.
Over the years, class 8 trucks and trailers have become more advanced with many new systems that require more expertise to maintain and repair. The need for a structured plan is more important today than ever before.
Drivers Are an Important Part of Regular Inspections
Drivers are the first line of defense against unscheduled downtime and roadside repair events. They know the trucks and trailers because they drive them every day so they need to be vocal if they observe something that isn’t correct.
You can create a simple checklist for drivers to follow which can include items like the ones listed below.
TIRES – Check the tires to make sure that they are not over or underinflated and that the tire tread depth is still in the acceptable range for the road conditions that will be driven.
BRAKES – Make sure drivers are well informed about things like brake fade and that they are not taking any shortcuts when performing inspections on the brake lining or the air system.
SUSPENSION – If the shocks are leaking, the air springs are showing wear or are deflated, or the leaf springs, shackles, and bushings are showing signs of wear or damage this should be reported immediately.
ELECTRICAL – Interior and exterior lights on the fleets trucks and trailers should be regularly inspected.
FLUIDS – Coolant, antifreeze, windshield washer fluid, engine oil, and DEF should all be regularly checked.
Seasonal Maintenance on Trucks and Trailers
In colder more northern climates like in the Eastern Seaboard and Mid-West of the United States and in Canada the winter season requires a different approach than in the summer.
Don’t forget these items when creating a winter checklist.
WINDSHIELDS – In the wintertime there are a lot more rocks and sand on the road which often are kicked up by vehicles and will chip or crack the windshield of a truck. A chip can be filled and a crack can be prevented but you must perform the chip repair quickly.
WINDSHIELD WASHER FLUID – The windshield washer fluid that you use in the wintertime is different than in the summer when you operate in northern climates. When it gets to minus forty degrees you don’t want summertime windshield washer fluid in the reservoir or lines because it will freeze and crack the reservoir tank.
TIRES AND CHAINS – The last thing you want is to have a wreck because the tires were not rated for winter driving conditions or the tire chains broke because they were damaged and in poor condition.
LIGHTS – Those powerful LED lights are great until they get covered in snow and ice and there isn’t enough heat to melt them like the old incandescent lights. Make sure the driver has the tools necessary to keep those lights from getting covered over creating a safety issue.
Regular Inspections by Repair Technicians for Trucks and Trailers
Your repair technicians are professionals and they need to be relied on for advice on how often things need to be serviced, inspected, and repaired.
The main systems in a truck all have different requirements and non of them should be neglected. The below list is not a complete list but will help you get started. If you would like to purchase a book about the fundamentals of medium and heavy-duty trucks systems click here.
Make sure that these systems are being properly serviced, inspected, and repaired:
- Engine Systems
- Cooling Systems
- Heating Systems
- Air Systems
- Electrical and Lighting Systems
- Filtration Systems
- Diesel Emisisons Systems
- Transmission and Differential Systems
- ABS and Safety Systems
- Wheel End and Braking Systems
- Steering and Suspension Systems
- Connection Systems
The Complete Connection System is Often Ignored
What we see most frequently is that the fifth wheel on the truck gets all the attention and the kingpin on the trailer is often ignored until it is too late. When it comes to the upper coupler assemble the inspection of the kingpin should not be neglected.
The kingpin is typically covered in grease and to properly inspect it the technician should remove the grease and perform a squareness and a 360-degree inspection with a kingpin wear inspection gauge. If the kingpin is past the MFG wear limit it needs to be repaired.
Most shops that identify a bad kingpin will either replace the upper coupler assembly or cut in a new pin. While replacing the kingpin by cutting in a new one may solve the immediate problem, it may, in fact, cause more problems to the system itself.
Whether it be from weakness in the plate the kingpin is re-welded to, or the fact that (due to portions of the crossbar/anchor sometimes needing removal as well) the anchor point for the kingpin is not quite as sturdy, a kingpin removal can sometimes cause seemingly unrelated difficulties.
As such, I urge you to consider the repair of a worn kingpin, as opposed to replacement. Not only are refurbished kingpins as reliable as newly manufactured kingpins, but the non-invasive procedure used to perform the repairs maintains the integrity of the upper coupler assembly.
Refurbishing kingpins not only will get your equipment back into compliance but also provides a path for a comprehensive upper-coupler preventative maintenance program.
Normally since the kingpin is a part of the upper coupler assembly the wear is not addressed on the assembly until it exceeds the MFG wear limits.
In that situation, the only service that can be performed proactively is the adjustment or replacement of the fifth wheel jaws. Although this is a needed procedure it only addresses half of the connection components. When you’re only addressing the wear on half of the components experiencing wear you are not addressing the issue.
By adding refurbishment to your maintenance program, you can repair the kingpin proactively, managing the wear levels of your connection components keeping them operating in a safe and limited stress environment.
Kingpin Refurbishment Done with an Engineered Process
Kingpin Specialists has an engineered process that is performed by welders certified in the specific weld application needed for professional kingpin refurbishment. This method is a proven, tested, engineered process, and we’ve been helping fleets like yours for over two and a half decades.
We complete repairs on site. A typical kingpin refurbishment takes approximately 2 hours from start to finish. Once completed, the trailer can go back into service and overall downtime is minimal.
If you are responsible for fleet maintenance on commercial vehicles, why not take the first step and have Kingpin Specialists perform an inspection and report on the condition of your fleet?