When the winter months arrive, it can be hard-going for the commercial utility vehicles that frequent the highways. Road conditions, bitter cold weather, longer hours on the road are just of a few of the factors that can affect the ability of a bucket truck to get on the road and stay on the road during winter month driving. In addition to these factors that are somewhat beyond the control of most bucket truck operators, an additional consideration is the physical condition of the vehicle itself – how important is this! Below is an outline of what can be done to protect the bucket truck with which a living is earned from succumbing to the throes of winter!
Vehicle Condition Considerations
Bucket truck drivers tend to think of the obvious things such as checking oil and antifreeze levels, making sure tire pressure is adequate, etc. Following are a few things that can be overlooked when thinking of winter driving needs.
Key Locks – This may seem a little strange at first; however, a frozen lock during the winter is no laughing matter! There is no real quick, easy way to ‘un-freeze’ one, so the best alternative is to completely avoid it! This is accomplished by lubricating all locks prior to the onset of wintry conditions and making sure that all locks are functioning and working very well. To keep it that way, use a key at least once a month even if a remote keyless entry is normally used just to be sure!
Door Hinges, Latches and Spare Tire Devices – While lubricating the key locks, direct some attention to all door hinges, latches to anything that mechanically closes as well as whatever particular device holds a spare tire. These are also subject to getting rusty, sticky or just not working well and some lubricant application prior to cold weather adding to the problem will go a long ways!
Weather Stripping – Again, this may seem a little unusual to include in a list of survival tips; however, the long hours spent either on the road getting to a job or working at a job-site inside of a drafty cab is not something to be overlooked. Look at the weather-stripping – if it is worn or brittle, get it replaced. If it isn’t too bad, some type of silicone product applied to clean weather-stripping will help prevent freezing rain from gluing it together and completely destroying it when having to pry the door open!
Wiper Blades – Roads are particularly wet in the winter, so the windshield wipers are used a lot even if there is no precipitation falling. Check the current wiper blades and get a set of winter wiper blades if they need to be replaced.
Windshield Washer Fluid – Those same roads that affect the wiper blades are probably going to cause the increased usage of windshield washer fluid to keep the windshield clean. Before every extended usage of the bucket truck, check the reservoir and add an anti-freeze formula of washer fluid to help keep driver vision optimal.
Outside Physical Element Considerations
Here are some specific physical elements that will undoubtedly occur during the winter months and could greatly affect the safe operation and positive outcome of winter usage of bucket trucks!
Road Conditions – The roadway conditions will always be a factor when working during the winter months. The best thing to do is be aware of what the conditions are in the area in which the job site is located. If travel into an area is not something that can be avoided when the roads are really bad, check with a state or province’s road department, usually located on a website now, so that a driving route can be chosen that offers the best conditions available for travel.
Bitter Cold Weather – This is something that is more than just ‘normal’ below freezing temperatures; this is when the thermometer is going below zero a long ways and may stay that low for an extended period of time. Several things must be considered: block heaters for engines to prevent actual freezing; special washer fluid and oil that can work at the most extreme low temperatures; proper air pressure in the tires to handle the extreme conditions; knowledge of engine idle time laws that apply when the temperature is so low are a few of the things that need to be considered.
Work Site Snow Removal – If the work site is located where there is a significant amount of snow be sure to remove just as much of it as possible from that location so that the outriggers can be safely placed on a solid surface that is free from snow and ice.
This list is by no means all-inclusive of the possible vehicle and outside physical element considerations that exist when operating a bucket truck during the winter months. It is a good start to taking a close look at these factors and doing all that is possible to protect a bucket truck from winter damage. Take care and stay warm!
Christopher M. Hunter is an expert in commercial special