truck maintenance

Temperatures are heating up across the country as summer approaches, and some components on Class 8 trucks need extra attention to prevent unscheduled downtime and maintenance expenses.

“Maintenance inspection points are primarily the same year-round, but there are certain maintenance items, especially the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system and tire pressures, that require extra attention during the summer,” said Chris Hough, vice president of maintenance design and engineering at Penske Truck Leasing.

Air Conditioning System Maintenance: Inspecting the HVAC system, including circulation air filters, and ensuring the AC system is cooling as designed, is essential for driver comfort and safety, Hough said. Naturally, the demand for HVAC systems increases in summer, and a qualified technician must regularly inspect HVAC systems.

Technicians must ensure the engine fan/clutch is activated and adequately engaged when the A/C system calls for more airflow across the condenser. In addition, the A/C system typically interfaces with a vehicle’s electronic systems and controllers. As a result, abnormal operating conditions within the A/C refrigerant subsystem could trigger fault codes that must be diagnosed and repaired before placing the unit back into service.

Additionally, cabin filters need to be inspected, cleaned and replaced regularly.

Truck Tire Maintenance: Proper summer tire pressures improve safety, tire life and fuel economy, and tires need special care when temperatures increase. “Maintaining correct tire pressure during the summer months will help reduce over-the-road tire failures,” Hough said.

Tires tend to run hotter and wear faster in warm weather, and the tire tread portion becomes softer in higher temperatures. That makes tires more susceptible to punctures from road debris.

Fleets and drivers can improve uptime and increase tire performance by checking tire inflation pressure with an accurate tire pressure gauge when the tires have cooled. Because tire pressure increases as temperatures rise, there is a risk of overinflated tires in the summer.

When air pressures are inaccurate, tires tend to flex, changing the shape of the tire’s footprint. That decreases fuel economy, creates irregular wear patterns and reduces tread life. Also, underinflated tires build up excessive heat, potentially causing premature failure.

Cooling and Electrical System Maintenance: During the summer, it’s critical to ensure a truck’s engine radiator, EGR coolers and transmission cooler are operating properly to maintain the correct engine and transmission temperatures. Inadequate or improper service of cooling and electrical systems can lead to heat-related failures during hot weather. Penske checks cooling systems during every preventive maintenance (PM) inspection.

Electronic component failures can be caused by damaged or missing heat guards, heat shields or heat deflectors, especially within those components found near the exhaust system after-treatment devices. Excessive heat can also make the plastic electrical connectors brittle or cause them to melt, leading to electrical malfunctions caused by poor connections at the electronic control units, sensors and solenoids that control various vehicle systems.

APU Maintenance: Auxiliary power units (APUs) also require special attention during the summer. Diesel-powered APUs have belts, lines, and AC compressors that require scheduled maintenance checks. An electric, battery-powered APU is integrated with the cab air conditioning and should be inspected to ensure it functions properly.

Refrigeration Unit Maintenance: Warm temperatures mean the reefer units on refrigerated trailers face higher demand. Carriers should inspect them regularly to ensure they run correctly as outdoor temperatures increase.

Battery Maintenance: Battery maintenance is not seasonal; a solid, year-round battery maintenance program will pay dividends.

Snow, ice and freezing temperatures can increase the risk of downtime for all diesel vehicles if the equipment and fuel that power them aren’t properly maintained. Breakdowns can result in delayed drivers, missed deliveries and poor customer service.

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Penske Truck Leasing recently celebrated the official opening of its new facility in Cuautitlán, Mexico. This addition highlights Penske's commitment to enhancing transportation solutions in the region.

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Regular preventive maintenance drives uptime for Class 8 tractors, and filters play a crucial role in ensuring the engine and critical components operate at peak performance, reducing wear and tear on the engine and improving fuel efficiency.

“At times, filter replacement may be overlooked. It is important to know what filters each of your vehicles are equipped with, what the recommended replacement intervals are, and where filters are located,” said Chris Hough, vice president of maintenance design and engineering for Penske Truck Leasing.

As part of its PM service, Penske maintenance technicians change filters based on either meter readings or day intervals. Filters are also changed if there is an indication that they need to be changed ahead of schedule, Hough said.

Filters requiring maintenance include:

Fuel Filter: Fuel filters, including modular filters some engine manufacturers use, remove impurities, water and contaminants from the fuel before it reaches the engine. “It is extremely important that you utilize high-quality replacement filters and maintain fuel systems correctly. If fuel systems are neglected, you could end up with major fuel system issues,” Hough said.

Diesel Exhaust Fluid Filters: DEF systems have a filter that filters the diesel exhaust fluid (DEF). These filters need to be changed at regular intervals to optimize the emission system performance.

Engine Air Filter: The engine air filter ensures clean air enters the engine’s intake system. A clogged or dirty air filter can restrict airflow, leading to reduced engine performance, decreased fuel efficiency and increased emissions issues. “Penske power units are equipped with LED vacuum indicators. These indicators will change from green to yellow and then red if the vacuum pressure exceeds a preset parameter, indicating that the filter has reached its capacity and needs to be changed,” Hough said.

Oil Filter: The oil filter is designed to filter the oil and remove contaminants to ensure only purified oil is circulated through the engine. “Like with the fuel filters, you want to utilize high-quality oil filters to maximize the oil performance,” Hough said.

Power Steering Filter: Power steering filters also need to be changed on a regularly scheduled interval to minimize power steering system issues.

HVAC Filter: HVAC filters clean the air before it enters the cab to remove dust, pollen and other particles. Inspecting these filters and replacing as needed during each PM is critical to the HVAC system performance. Most sleeper berths also have an HVAC filter that filters recirculated air. These filters should be inspected and replaced as needed during each PM. HVAC filters are crucial for maintaining a comfortable and healthy environment for drivers.

Air Dryer Filters: Air dryer filters remove moisture and contamination from the air supply produced by the vehicle’s air compressor. “Again, utilizing quality replacement filters will pay dividends. Many lower-quality air dryer filters on the market today do not utilize desiccant. Without the desiccant feature, moisture will bypass the air dryer and wreak havoc on the air system,” Hough said.

Replacing filters as needed improves engine performance, reduces the risk of roadside breakdown, and can ultimately reduce operating costs.

When you press the brake pedal on your truck, you expect an instant response. Yet any number of issues can cause your vehicle’s braking systems to fail, increasing your risk of a serious accident while putting you and your cargo in danger. That’s why maintaining your truck’s braking system is so important and a major part of your Pre-Trip Inspection.

To ensure brake safety every day of the year, here are 10 tips to help ensure your brake linings and pads are ready for the road:

1. Inspect all the parts of the brake linings and pads that you can see during pre- and post-trip inspections.

2. Check for signs of missing or damaged brake lining, such as grooves in the drum from rivet contact.

3. Look at the shoe-to-drum clearance and ensure that there is adequate lining on the shoe.

4. Try to find any signs of leaks from the hub or other components that may contaminate the lining or pad surface.

5. Look for any missing lining blocks.

6. Scan for visible cracks or voids in the lining block.

7. Check for any exposed rivets or lining blocks that look loose on the shoe.

8. On disc brakes, pay close attention to the condition of the rotor. Look for either metal-to-metal contact or heavily rusted rotors across the entire friction surface on either side.

9. Make any repairs in accordance with the brake manufacturer’s requirements and guidelines.

10. Note any brake lining or pad-related issues in your driver vehicle inspection reports and report them to the motor carrier.

In addition, always check for these brake-related items during pre- and post-trip inspections:

  • Any missing, non-functioning, loose or cracked parts
  • Audible air leaks coming from around the brake components and lines
  • Slack adjusters that are different lengths
  • Air pressure below 90-100 psi
  • Rust holes or broken springs in the brake housing section of the parking brake
  • Malfunctioning ABS warning lamps

Remember, a properly conducted pre-trip inspection will go a long way toward passing a brake inspection — and keeping you and those around you safe.

Professional drivers, get ready to share the road. Nearly 85% of Americans expect to travel this summer, according to a 2023 travel survey from The Vacationer. And 100 million people plan to take a road trip of 250 miles or more.

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A strong maintenance program can reduce downtime, increase safety and improve fuel economy, but technician shortages, equipment demands and time constraints can make it hard to ensure equipment is getting the care it needs. Penske has several maintenance solutions – contract maintenance, on-site maintenance, mobile maintenance and managed maintenance – that can help fleets increase their maintenance capacity, so every piece of equipment is seen on schedule and repaired quickly.

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When drawing on telematics information for maintenance, the ultimate goal is to increase vehicle uptime by speeding up, or even preventing, repairs.

“If the vehicle is down for any type of maintenance, that means it is not delivering product,” said Gregg Mangione, executive vice president of maintenance, Penske Truck Leasing. “At their core, fleets want uptime.”

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From Oct. 2-8, Penske Truck Leasing celebrates over 9,000 technicians and customer service representatives (CSRs) during National Technician Appreciation Week.

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PGT Trucking, Inc., a multi-service transportation firm offering flatbed, dedicated, international and specialized services, announced that it selected Penske Truck Leasing as its provider of choice for comprehensive fleet maintenance solutions. This strategic move enables PGT to streamline its resources on driving innovative and sustainable solutions in the transportation industry.

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Penske Truck Leasing announced today it has introduced a new truck maintenance on-site guide, Shipper’s Guide to Outsourcing On-Site Fleet Maintenance, which is now available at no cost. The three-part guide provides detailed information on how businesses can implement on-site maintenance to navigate the obstacles of operating a vehicle maintenance facility.

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Operating and sustaining a vehicle maintenance facility presents a vast array of ongoing and complex challenges. From maintaining equipment and ensuring access to proper tooling, to hiring and sustaining a qualified workforce, the responsibilities are endless. And with how quickly vehicle technology and compliance regulations change, simply staying on top of that obligation remains a tremendous challenge.

Penske has put together a three-part guide to help users understand why a growing number of businesses are moving towards a qualified outside maintenance provider to deliver on-site service to overcome these obstacles. The first section takes a comprehensive look at what it takes to provide superior maintenance service, optimize staffing, manage tooling systems and parts, and comply with environmental and safety requirements. The next section shows how to calculate and understand all your current maintenance costs. The final section considers mitigating factors if you're deciding to outsource to a third-party maintenance provider, including how to find the right partner and how to effectively manage change.

As a proven leader in the transportation industry, Penske offers on-site maintenance services that can help you:

  • Predict operating costs
  • Increase labor productivity
  • Optimize vehicle uptime and lifecycle
  • Achieve environmental goals
  • Outsource financial and compliance risk

Whether you have just begun thinking about outsourcing on-site maintenance or you're in the latter stages of choosing a partner, you will benefit from this e-book.

For the eighth-straight year, Penske Truck Leasing will be participating in the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference (NLSC). Taking place from June 20-24 in Atlanta, Georgia, Penske will be connecting with aspiring technicians to reinforce the importance of their work to the industry and to promote career opportunities that are available with the company. This year will mark Penske’s first as an official sponsor.

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Regular maintenance of Class 8 vehicles requires replacing and removing fluids to keep vehicles running. Used fluids must be recycled or disposed of correctly and documented from cradle to grave to meet regulatory requirements. Additionally, customers are increasingly interested in monitoring their carbon output and documenting recycling efforts.

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The National Private Truck Council 2021 Benchmarking Survey Report provides fleets with new industry standards to evaluate performance and identify opportunities for improvement.

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The very nature of maintenance and heavy-duty truck repair work can pose an increased risk of injury to employees. Private fleets that operate a vehicle maintenance facility have most likely experienced the risks and hard costs of hazardous waste, inadequate or outdated tools, and injuries.

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Winter weather and the harsh driving conditions that come with it can be hard on trucks and difficult for drivers, but proper maintenance and the latest safety technology can help keep equipment and those on the road safe.

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Roadside repairs can be costly, delay drivers and result in missed deliveries. Data collected as part of the American Trucking Associations' Technology & Maintenance Council/FleetNet America Vertical Benchmarking Program found fleets averaged 29,506 miles of operation between unscheduled road repairs in the first quarter of 2021, down 18.7% from the fourth quarter of 2020.

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