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Autumn Trucking: Navigating The Obstacles of Fall

Fall is a season of change. As we begin to prepare for harvest and peak shipping season, there are new challenges added to the already busy life of truck drivers. Between changing weather, more traffic on the roads and added obstacles, trucking in the fall can be a challenge if you are unprepared. To help make the season a little easier, truckers can adapt to fall trucking by following a few easy tips to keep things flowing smoothly and as easy as possible. 

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Harvest season comes with a greater workload and increased traffic on the roads which can make getting to your destination more stressful. Whether you are a new trucker or seasoned veteran, it is best to know what to expect as you head out on the road. Make sure you're prepared for the changes that come with September, October and November, by making a few adjustments to your routine and process. Here are some key tips to keep you trucking this fall. 

Check Your Lights

As we head into fall, the days are getting shorter and we will soon have to rely on our headlights and taillights to navigate even the early afternoons. Before setting out on the road, you will want to check and make sure your taillights and headlights are working, replace any worn out bulbs and ensure that you are visible and ready to move forward into the season.

Prepare For Obstacles

With kids going back to school and fall crop harvest, you can expect that there may be added equipment or vehicles on the roads. Whether you are in the city or rural country, chances are there will be school bus stops and signs ahead of you, so pay attention to your surroundings. If you are in populated areas, keep in mind that crossing guards may be on the roads, as well as parents picking up or dropping kids off.

Farmers are going to be harvesting crops and preparing for winter, so you may anticipate to see farming equipment on the roads, including tractors or combines. These types of machines move slow, so give them space and make sure you stay visible around them. 

Look Out For Wildlife 

Fall season is also a season in which deer are more active due to their mating season, and likely to be on the roads or crossing, so you will need to pay special attention to wildlife as you drive. Reflection on the side of the road may be an animal’s eyes, so be careful when driving, and slow down in wooded areas or driving by forests. Look to the side of the road every few seconds to make sure that you do not miss an animal trying to cross. If you do see animals around, try to slow down, but remember never to swerve to avoid hitting one, as this can be even more hazardous and cause an accident.

Adapt To Changing Weather 

Fall weather tends to be rougher, as we are in a transitional season between summer and winter, so we can expect fog, darkness and even snow or rain. There is a need to check the forecast of the area you are heading into, and make sure to stay updated the day of, as well. Mountain driving can be especially hazardous, as the rainy weather up there can quickly turn to sleet or snow, causing black ice.

Double your following distance in fog, and don’t forget to use your low beam lights. Remember that high beam lights in fog will reflect the light back to your eyes, and can lead to visibility issues. The sun glare is worse in fall as well due to the sun being closer to the horizon, so try to carry polarized sunglasses and keep your windshield clean.

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Fuel Efficiently 

Inflation is impacting earnings. We are still seeing relatively high fuel prices, which is further exasperated by limited freight availability this coming September and fall. We are seeing more trucks available than there is freight to move, as consumers are purchasing large goods at a lower rate than years before, causing limited freight availability, especially for dry van.

When you can, opt to use fuel surcharges and only load up on the amount you need for the load to be picked up and delivered. Avoid idle time as much as possible, and make sure that you are using other methods to stay cool or warm, depending on need. You can plug a fan in using a power inverter, keep your window open or using your auxiliary power unit, if you’ve got one.

Pack Your Supplies

With the transition from summer to fall comes new challenges, which can take a toll on a driver's mental and physical health. It is important to keep the right supplies for peace of mind, and to help you navigate any unexpected obstacles. You will always want to travel with an emergency kit, in the case of getting stranded or delayed anywhere due to weather or mechanical issues.

On your travels, you will need to have enough food and water, in case you end up stranded. Remember to also pack supplies for the fall season, as we have a change in needs. September is the month where chain laws go into effect in Colorado and California first, and then soon after in other states, so you will want to pack yours and know how to put them on.

Prepare Your Truck

In addition to your pre trip and post trip inspections, you want to make sure your truck is in running condition for the weather change. Remember that colder weather can affect your trailer as well, as the colder weather can cause the grease on your fifth wheel to thicken, delaying the speed at which you can hook up to a trailer. Double check your jaws and ensure they are fully engaged, before driving off.

Slow Down In Leaf Covered Areas

The fall weather brings a lot of leaf covered terrain, which can be challenging for trucks. You will find that dry leaves reduce tire traction, while wet ones can cause them to skid. You will want to be as careful as possible in reducing your speed, especially during turns, in this season. Leaves also tend to cover ground, which can make it difficult to see if there are pot holes or other obstacles, so be cautious. 

When autumn rolls around, truckers have to keep on top of their game. Since we are facing inflation and unpredictable weather this year, planning ahead and staying prepared is more important than ever. Make sure you have all your documents ready before you head out, and make sure to have a plan in place if you get stuck somewhere. Getting through the fall season with your schedule intact is no small feat, but with the right tools at your disposal, you'll be ready for whatever comes your way.