Category: truck maintenance

How the Suez Canal crisis may affect trucking

The story of the quarter mile-long Ever Given cargo ship becoming beached in the Suez Canal has been all over the media recently. Blocking one of the world’s most important shipping routes for 6 days, the stalling of the Ever Given has created a crisis that has cost billions in trade and has slowed down shipping for weeks due to the backlog of ships. So, what does this have to do with the transportation of goods on trucks in the United States?

It may have a considerable impact. Even though domestic goods can be shipped as scheduled, international imports may be severely delayed, leading to disrupted routes and a lull in transportation, until the effects of the crisis are mitigated. There are many benefits to participating in a globalized economy of the 21st century including decreased costs of importing and exporting goods, but when a major crisis occurs such as in the Suez Canal, almost every industry whether international or domestic can expect to take a hit.

Suez Canal

The Suez Canal is the largest canal in the World without locks (locks are mechanically operated dams that change the water levels of an area allowing them to be raised and lowered to accommodate the change in topography between two bodies of water). The canal was first constructed in 1869 by French Investors taking advantage of the thin stretch of land between mainland Egypt and the Isthmus of Suez to provide a more expedient trade route from Asia to Europe.

Since then, it has provided a major international shipping lane which reduces the duration of transit by an average of 10 days from alternative routes. Other major blockages include the Suez Crisis in 1956 and a blockage by a Russian ship in 2004. Each blockage of the canal has reinforced the appreciation of the importance of this trade route in international commerce.

Sticky Situation

A few weeks ago the Ever Given, a Taiwanese cargo ship, was grounded as it was pushed into the shallows of the Suez Canal by strong winds. This colossal ship blocked the canal off and required a large team of engineers and tugboats to free the ship, 6 days after it had been stuck. This sticky situation caused over 400 ships to be backlogged at the canal, and countless others to be delayed as they were redirected to go around the Cape of Good Hope at the bottom of the African continent, which adds another 10 days on average to the journey.

The cost of goods being delayed because of this crisis is estimated to be around $9.6 billion, or around $6.7 million per minute of the blockage. This has a major economic impact on industries around the globe as this is a large amount of goods that are delayed. 

The Domestic Economic Issue with the Crisis

The Suez Canal incident may have serious domestic implications, especially when imported goods are expected to arrive at a specific time. It is likely that the supply chain will be slowed for a long time until returning to normal due to the huge impact of the blockage. In addition to the slow down, some goods may not be able to be transported as perishable shipments may have to be discarded because of their time-sensitive nature. Imported food shipments may be reduced during this time because of the perishable goods being thrown out.

Even with the devastating effect on the economy and effectiveness of the supply chain through the Suez Canal, the global market will recover soon. The people that maintain the canal now know how to resolve blockages more rapidly in the future. The trucking industry will likely take a small financial hit, especially in the imported goods sector, but huge losses and delays are unlikely.

Sources:
https://www.bbc.com/news/business-56559073
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/25/world/middleeast/suez-canal-container-ship.html
https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/03/29/world/suez-canal-stuck-ship

Tips to extend the life of your DPF and keep filters running cleaner

If you’re like most people, breathing is probably one of your favorite activities. It’s definitely an important function for remaining alive, and breathing clean air makes the experience all the more positive. For this reason, alongside the societal health benefits of reducing pollution, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandated in 2007 that DPFs (Diesel Particulate Filters) be installed in vehicles that use diesel as a fuel source to keep excess soot out of the air we breathe.

DPFs are great for the environment and the health and safety of people that live near heavily driven roads, but they can be expensive when not properly maintained. Allowing your DPF to regenerate often, keeping track of the miles you have traveled, and paying attention to any warning lights can help ensure your DPF is functional and effective for as long as possible, which can save you time and money. 

A Little Particulate

DPFs filter the emissions from the engine and collect the fine particulates that come from burning diesel fuel and residual engine oil before releasing the filtered air into the environment. These filters catch soot and ash that tend to build up in the DPF until a process called regeneration takes place. The regeneration process is where the real magic happens when it comes to prolonging the life of your DPF. This occurs when the temperature of the exhaust is high enough to burn off the soot and ash. 

Keeping Your DPF Healthy

There are some actions you can take to keep your DPF cleaner for longer, preventing the need for regeneration or costly repairs that come from avoidable mistakes. The three main things to pay attention to when watching out for the health of your DPF are: engine cleanliness, engine heat at startup, and the type of fuel you use. Making sure to follow these tips will prolong the life of your DPF, which will save you time and money in the future.

Having clean cylinders (meaning free of residual oil) will ensure that fewer particles will enter your DPF.  This is because most of the soot and ash particles are caused by the combustion of engine oil that contains additives, which promote the health of your engine, but create particulates when burned. Watching the consumption of your engine oil and keeping track of it can help to show how clean your cylinders are and if there is an issue that needs to be addressed to reduce particulate buildup.

In extreme cold warming up the engine using a coolant heater is an effective way of promoting the efficiency of your vehicle while reducing the amount of soot and ash created. Allowing the engine time to become thoroughly warmed will keep your truck from idling too long and is easier on your engine than the cold-start method. The final measure you can take is monitoring what kind of fuel you use in your truck. Traditional petroleum diesel can have many particulate-causing compounds, but biodiesel burns more cleanly and efficiently. If possible, opt for biodiesel to extend the life of your DPF.

Final Thoughts

Promoting the health of your DPF by following these simple steps can help you save money from costly repairs and replacements. It will also help protect the environment from harmful emissions. Keeping your DPF from being overloaded with particulates is truly a win-win for everyone. 

Sources:
https://www.overdriveonline.com/equipment/article/15064706/3-tips-to-extend-dpf-life-and-keep-filters-running-clean
https://www.uti.edu/blog/diesel/diesel-particulate-filters

Cargo Securement Tips of the Trade to Avoid Downtime

cargo-securement-tips-of-the-trade-to-avoid-downtime

Depending on how you’ve been taught, you might think that a strap is a strap and a chain is a chain. Securing your cargo might be something you haven’t given a lot of thought to in a while. Something to think about is that there are rules in place that you could be unknowingly violating. These rules are in place in an effort to avoid causing damage to other motorists on the road.

Understanding the proper way to tie down and secure loads improves highway safety and keeps you from the lengthy downtimes involved with violating the rules set out by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA).

The specific rules to follow come from an older set of regulations given by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that took effect in 2004.

The general overview of these rules can be summed up in the following: “Cargo must be firmly immobilized or secured on or within a vehicle by structures of adequate strength, dunnage (loose materials used to support and protect cargo) or dunnage bags (inflatable bags intended to fill space between articles of cargo or between cargo and the wall of the vehicle), shoring bars, tiedowns or a combination of these.”

A rule of thumb to go by from these rules is that one tie down is required for items 5 ft. or less in length and under 1,100 lbs. Two tie downs are required for items 5 ft. or less in length and more than 1,100 lbs., or greater than 5 ft but less than 10 ft. long, regardless of weight. An extra tie down is required for every additional 10 ft.

Officers from CVSA enforce these rules during their routine roadside inspections of tractor-trailers and their drivers. If a truck driver is found in noncompliance, their truck can be taken out of service due to inspection item violations.

The concern, from the CVSA officers, is that improperly secured items can fall off the trailer and damage, injure, or even kill other motorists. The item itself might not directly cause a fatality, but a flying, bouncing, and fast approaching object on the road can cause accidents that could possibly lead to a fatality.

New drivers are spooked easily and aren’t accustomed to objects hitting their windshield. Older drivers with declining vision and reaction time, are also susceptible to crashes involving unexpected hazards.

In addition to following proper securement rules, routine checks of strap conditions not only help secure the load, but can also prevent unplanned downtime due to a failed CVSA inspection.

A variety of things can damage your straps. Get ahead of this and regularly check straps for cuts, burns, fraying, or other damage.

In cases where you do find damaged straps, replace the strap immediately. Spending a little bit of money now can prevent a significant loss of money due to downtime if the strap fails or is found to be damaged during an inspection. Having extra straps in the cab of your truck is highly recommended.