2019 | TruckingInfo
It is impossible to avoid the highly corrosive chemicals used to clear roadways in winter. Understand the nature of these compounds and learn how to take preemptive measures to make your trucks last longer.
Corrosive chemicals wreak havoc on cabs in more ways than one. The spray that comes off the road not only impacts the underside of the cab, but driver footwear brings corrosive chemicals into the cab several times a day.
During a 2016 TMC task force meeting on cab and controls corrosion, chairman Tim Brune said, “We are seeing a lot of corrosion happening in cabs.”
Drivers get in and out of their trucks all the time, and as a result, track whatever is on the ground into the cab. It’s bad enough having snow and ice combined with the deicing chemicals, but the problem is made worse because of the chemicals’ hygroscopic nature. According to the Identification and Laboratory Assessment of Best Practices to Protect DOT Equipment from the Corrosive Effect of Chemical Deicers, hygroscopic material continues to draw moisture from the air even in seemingly dry environments. As the driver’s shoes dry out, the remnants of the deicing chemicals get sucked into the truck’s HVAC system and recirculated throughout the cab, where, because of their hygroscopic nature, they continue to attract moisture.
Several task force attendees said when they rolled up cab rugs on two to three-year-old trucks the floor had almost been eaten away by corrosion. However, the floor itself is not the only item damaged by deicing substances. Seat belt mounts and retractors can also be damaged, and the cost to replace electrical wiring and connectors can run thousands of dollars. During the task force meeting, one attendee said that within six months corrosion had destroyed a $4,000 sensor. The task force’s advice was to inspect all sealed connectors in the cab because once moisture gets in the cab, it gets in the wires.
Most highway departments have switched to chloride deicers, such as calcium chloride and magnesium chloride, to keep roads passable during the winter months. Both chemicals are more effective than sodium chloride because they provide lower
freeze points, cost less and are less harmful to the environment. Many DOTs also mix in liquids such as sugar beet juice or vegetable oil to improve adhesion to road surfaces, and they have started spraying road surfaces before storms hit to get ahead of the snow and ice.
In his blog, Dave Budd, vice president of product development and marketing at Great Lake Chloride, said, “Ice melter speed of action is determined by how easily it dissolves when exposed to snow or ice to form a brine solution. This brine lowers the freezing point of water to melt additional snow and ice on contact.”
It’s easy to see why highway departments prefer calcium chloride or magnesium chloride, because of their natural advantages.
Even if the floor of the cab fails to show rust, it is going to take a beating and lose some of its appeal. Worn or dirty looking cabs can be a deterrent in a fleet’s efforts to attract and retain drivers. It is no secret that the trucking industry is experiencing a severe driver shortage – one that is expected to get worse in the future. As the average age of a driver rises – it currently sits at 49 –the American Trucking Associations 2015 Truck Driver Shortage Analysis says, “the shortage may balloon to almost 175,000 by 2024.” Drivers admit the condition of the vehicle plays a role in whether they leave. Many fleets are experiencing driver turnover rates of more than 100%. Brad Ackerman, president of K&B Transportation, says there will be eight to 10 different drivers over the life of a truck. That means his fleet will clean the cab interior eight to 10 times over 48 to 60 months – the average life of a truck at K&B. It can be a time-consuming process after it has been subjected to deicing chemicals and general wear and tear.
One option for fighting the effects of in-cab corrosion are tray-style floor mats. The mat’s raised edge will contain any spills or messes – including deicing chemicals – and keep them off the floor. Another advantage is the speed with which they can be cleaned. Rather than spend a day in the shop scrubbing and detailing the cab, most tray-style floor mats can be cleaned in seconds. “We can remove the mats and take a pressure washer to them. It takes about 30 seconds,” Ackerman said.
Ackerman insists K&B Transportation has saved a lot of money since installing tray-style floor mats. “Probably saved me about a thousand dollars a truck, over the life of the truck,” Ackerman said.
Many fleets invest in rubber mats. Unfortunately, these mats may not do a good job of keeping the floor clean and free of corrosive deicing chemicals. Unlike most tray-style floor mats, they are not laser fitted for a specific cab.
Corrosion is a tough opponent and Old Man Winter is not going away. Fleet owners must find a solution that works for them and keeps harmful chemicals off of cab floors and out of their pockets.