What Do I Do When My Truck Breaks Down?

The Quick Guide to What to Do if Your Truck Breaks Down

The law of nature is what goes up must come down, and unless you’ve been driving around in the new, electric Tesla truck, you should expect your rig to break down. No matter how well you treat her.

Particularly so, if you have the fancy electronics you would think belong only in the Tesla truck. Unfortunately, you would be hard-pressed to find a truck simple enough for you to work on in this day and age (there is still quite a bit that you can do though). Here’s a quick guide on what to do if your truck breaks down.

As soon as you realize that something just isn’t feeling right, the truck needs to be stopped. For now, I’m assuming you are standing on the side of the road with your rig turned off. If not…

Step 1: Pull Over Right Away

You’re too big to be taking chances or making abrupt turns. The moment you realize that you will have to come to a stop, you should know that you don’t belong in traffic for an extra second. In fact, you have now become a hazard – for everyone else and yourself.

You want to pull over clear to the side of the road where the shoulder is as wide as possible. Get off the shoulder for sure! The bottom line is, you want to give no reason for the oncoming traffic to engage with you or your space.

Just in case you have forgotten in the heat of the moment, Bubba and his uncle are out on the street, and they are towing boat today. You don’t want to take any chances. You want to stay inside your truck as much as possible.

But you also need to come out. Just for a bit.

Step 2: Set Up Your Triangles and Flares

Once you’ve stopped, you want to make sure other drivers can see you. This is where your visibility equipment, such as triangles and flares come into play. This needs to be done regardless of the time of day.

This equipment is designed to protect everyone on the road, including you and your rig. They alert oncoming traffic and keep them out of your space, which is exactly what you want.

These triangles need to be placed at the 50 feet, the 100 feet and the 150 feet marker points, measured from your rear bumper. Approximations would do – just count the number of steps instead of feet.

You just want to make sure if it is nighttime, or if the visibility is low – perhaps you’ve chosen Portland to break down in December, you use reflective equipment. Flares are just what you need.

Before you get back in the cab, see if you can get to the front of the rig.

Step 3: Open the Hood

If you are able to access the front of your rig, it’s a good idea to prop open your hood, even if you’re not wanting in there at all. This lets interested, curious onlookers quickly understand your situation.

Once, the engine has cooled down it’s always a good idea to check your fluids, see if there are any visible leaks or any other damage to the motor. This will be helpful in getting the right kind of help out to your rig or you may even find it’s something you can fix yourself right there on the side of the road.

This information is also helpful so you can call into dispatch and let them know what’s going on. Before you call in though, you need to do your homework. Make sure you know the make and model of truck that you drive, if you’re leaking any fluids, and as much other information as possible.

Step 4: Assess and Call Dispatch

Depending upon what you observed prior to breaking down, you should be able to assess the situation and damage. That is valuable information. Try to answer the following questions.

  • Where was the noise coming from?
  • Did you notice any smoke, what could have caused this possibly?
  • Did you run into something, or did you run something over?
  • Did you negotiate a curve too hard?

Perhaps the worse situation is knowing what is broke and then just being unable to fix it because it has a mind of its own, with software and wires everywhere. Happens all the time now given greater automation and lower emissions.

However, you can provide all your information to your company dispatch. You can ask to speak with the company foreman, who can give you quite a few valuable pointers and help connect the dots.

Again, the amount of correct information that you give your backup will determine how long this situation will last. It can also be helpful to see if there is additional information your company can provide to you about your rig.

Dispatch should provide you with repair shop options, including recommendations for towing services. Don’t be surprised if the repair shop you end up at is busy. In fact, you may not be able to walk in and get out right away, or even the same day.

There is typically a large backlog. It is important to keep your company informed at every step of the process so that the customer waiting for their delivery can be kept in the loop. In some cases, the completion of repairs can take up to a few days. You can thank most of the recent advances in automobile technology for the situation.

Step 5: Stay Safe

While they are not obligated to, most of the time your towing company can drop you at a suitable place to stay. Alternatively, you can depend upon your omnipotent, omniscient mobile device to help you with this issue (given you have reception).

Your mobile device is going to be responsible for all of the magic that can happen for you at this inopportune place, time, and occasion. This is especially true for independent contractors, who may not have a support network, or a large-company to commiserate with.

Just one piece of advice for such drivers: before availing services, make sure to check their Google or Yelp reviews. It may be worth it to pay a bit extra, for the enormous marginal equity in services that an honest business will give you. Peace of mind is included.

Hindsight 20-20

There are a dozen different lines of action that you can incorporate into your driving routine and the chances of you breaking down on paper will continue to come down.
Meanwhile, other actions will bring down the pain when you do experience downtime.

Some of these, of course, include periodic maintenance, taking care of issues the moment you notice them, having a really good towing package included in your insurance plan, carrying certain essential supplies in your rig at all times, and having a general support network, at least on the route that you know you would be taking frequently.

However, with time, you will slowly inculcate the habit of responding automatically, realizing that such incidents can be handled and responded to – rather than dwell upon the resentment of them actually happening to you!