With the national truck driver shortage, volatile freight rates, and high input costs, it is no surprise that some trucking companies are operating at less than capacity. This can result in company owners or owner-operators reducing the size of their active fleet by sidelining vehicles. However, there are risks associated with parking vehicles for extended periods of time.
Unfortunately, we have seen a few high-cost claims where electrical fires caused by inadequate servicing/maintenance of sidelined vehicles destroyed multiple trucks and damaged property.
If sidelining a vehicle is something you or your company is considering, here are a couple things to keep in mind:
- Oil and fuel—Depending on the climate (temperature, humidity, etc.), the truck could experience a variety of conditions. Changing oil, topping off fuel, and adding stabilizer can help prevent condensation from corroding your system.
- Battery health—Batteries can quickly die if the vehicle is not turned on for more than a few days. One option to consider is hooking up a trickle charger, which will monitor and maintain a consistent charge. However, batteries and electrical systems can be prone to fires through sparking, so monitor closely and be prepared with a fire extinguisher in the area.
Bringing a vehicle back online after sitting for some time requires additional care. Have qualified technicians do a thorough inspection including:
- Checking fluid levels
- Looking for condensation/water contamination and adding radiator coolant supplemental coolant additives (SCAs) as recommended by engine manufacturer and coolant type
- Checking battery strength/condition and inspecting wiring, lights, and other electrical components
- Completing a simple cleaning while checking for rodent damage and nests in the dash and heater core
- Checking and adjusting tire pressure as needed and inspecting tires for cracking and other issues
- Inspecting brake shoes and linings—keep in mind that rust can slowly creep behind the steel and brake lining and force the linings out of their rivets, especially in a salty environment
Things become old, brittle, and prone to failure from sitting. These issues should be caught in the annual inspection, but a knowledgeable technician will catch and address them as common sense would dictate.
Communication is key and fleets must notify their technician of where the vehicle was coming from and what they are trying to accomplish.
- Is the goal to do a quick Appendix G inspection, complete the required paperwork, and return the truck to service to be in “acceptable” compliance when pulled over roadside?
- Or is the fleet’s goal to thoroughly go over the vehicle and do preventative maintenance where needed for the greatest uptime and reliability?
With sidelined vehicles, “out of sight” should not mean “out of mind.” Preparing your vehicle before, during, and after a period of inactivity can save you time and money in the long run. Finally, be sure that you have adequate insurance coverage applied to the vehicle both while in operation and when sidelined. Speak with your licensed agent to learn more.