How You Can Prevent Truck Fires
We’re not sure if Billy Joel was talking to truckers when he sang “We Didn’t Start The Fire,” but it’s safe to say that most truck fires are unintended accidents. Things like smoking, overheated tires, dragging brakes, and faulty wiring or exhaust system failures are just some of the causes of truck fires and thankfully most of these are preventable.
Here’s what you can do to reduce your risk, so you don’t start the fire.
- Smoking: If you’re hauling hazmat freight, don’t smoke. Even if you’re not hauling hazmat loads, it’s still a good idea to avoid smoking while you’re hauling. If you’re going to smoke, put out your cigarette or cigar in an ash tray instead of throwing it out the window. Trash and fabric can catch fire, so keep butts, matches and lighters away.
- Check the Brakes: Dragging or malfunctioning brakes can heat up and potentially start a fire. By checking your truck’s brake pads and drums often, you can significantly reduce your risk. Be sure to report any alignment or wheel bearing issues right away.
- Check the Exhaust System: Even a small hole in your truck’s exhaust system can be dangerous because hot gases can combine with grease and oil and cause a fire. Check for any visible damage and also check your water pump, radiator, air compressor pump, and power steering pump.
- Tires: Check your truck’s tire pressure before and after each trip. If your tires are under-inflated, the casing of the tire can bend and move as you drive. This friction causes the tires to get very hot and can cause a fire. Be sure to stay on top of rotating and replacing your truck’s tires.
- Wiring: According to the American Trucking Association’s Technology and Maintenance Council, most truck fires are caused by the routing, clipping or chafing of the vehicle’s electrical wiring. Check your battery cables at least monthly and look for frayed wiring, missing cable tie-downs, missing grommets or buildup of grease and dirt.
Prevent Truck Fires
- Before you hit the road, do a pre-trip inspection to make sure everything is working properly on your truck and check the following:
- Look for wheel, brake or tire failures
- Check fuel lines, crankcase, hydraulic hoses and the exhaust system
- Make sure tires are properly inflated
- Pay close attention to any hose or wiring insulation failures
- Look for grease or oil on your truck’s wheels, axels, and around the engine compartment
What to Do If There’s a Truck Fire
If you notice a truck fire while driving, stop your truck right away and pull as far off the road as possible. Try to stop the truck in an open area away from buildings, trees or other vehicles. Call 911 and do your best to stop traffic at least 2,000 feet around your vehicle.
If the fire is out of control, don’t try and put it out yourself. If you feel comfortable and if the fire is in your tires, you can use water, a dry chemical extinguisher or dirt to put it out. If the fire is in your engine, use a dry chemical extinguisher, but don’t open the hood. If you do, the additional oxygen will fuel the fire and make it more intense. Most importantly, get away from the truck and wait for help to arrive.
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