Why Understanding Mountain Grades is Imperative in Professional Trucking

Mountain Grades is Imperative in Professional Trucking

Mountain driving takes practice and skill, but if your truck drivers don’t know how to navigate mountain grades safely, your trucking company could be severely limited in its ability to deliver service. What’s worse, if your drivers aren’t able to safely drive on various mountain grades, serious liability issues could exist that may lead to lawsuits after injuries and accidents.


The Basics of Grading

Grading is done using a rise-to-run ratio. This ratio is calculated by comparing the distance from the ground that a piece of roadway rises to the length of the roadway. While grading may be expressed in degrees, it is often given as a percentage.

Mountainous regions and sections of highways with steep hills may have grading that changes over a given area, so it is imperative for truck drivers to keep a close eye on signage. Signs may advise drivers to “slow down” or “use caution,” but they may also provide a visual reference to a grade change or display an actual grade value.


Safe Use of Equipment

When navigating a mountain grade, safe use of equipment is the key to getting down steep declines. Riding the brakes and hard braking can quickly wear out components, and if your braking system goes while trying to maneuver a rig down a steep mountain highway, you could be in big trouble.

Although CDL manuals can provide guidance for mountain driving, not all manuals are created equal in this regard. States that don’t have many mountains may not pay as much attention to this type of driving when laying out guidelines. As a result, drivers in these areas may not receive the training needed for mountain driving, so it’s up to your trucking company to provide this training.

Teaching drivers things like only using the engine brake instead of service brake applications to maintain a safe speed while descending a mountain road are items that are left out of CDL manuals. If your drivers traverse mountain roads, your company needs to be aware of the potential threats and dangers involved in this driving and train your drivers accordingly.


Speed Matters

In addition to the safe use of equipment, truck drivers must pay close attention to speed when descending a steep mountain grade. Going down a mountain highway usually means that the weight of the rig will make braking take longer, and it may be more difficult to control speeds due to the momentum of a load’s weight pushing on the back of a truck.

As a result, your drivers need to be aware of the speed and following distances at all times when descending mountain highways. Following too closely can lead to rear-end collisions since not enough time will be allowed to come to a complete stop in an emergency safely. Additionally, it can be easy to misjudge curves when speeding down a mountain since the weight dynamics change when descending a steep grade.


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