As the winter months continue on, fleets continue the fight against corrosion and its risk to their equipment that is often caused by road de-icing products.
Although it’s important to clear roadways of snow and ice to keep drivers safe, the de-icing products used by cities across the country are typically full of chlorides, which cause dangerous and costly corrosion on trucks. Fleets are now working hard to inspect their vehicles regularly and wash salt and chemicals off of equipment as thoroughly as possible.
“Between sand, calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, and road salt, you could develop quite a paste, which is hard to remove and helps to keep the moisture in and cause corrosion more rapidly,” said Kenan Advantage Group’s executive vice president of fleet services, Kirk Altrichter. He noted that keeping equipment clear of de-icing chemicals is a constant maintenance issue for his company during the winter months.
Staying up-to-date on the changing methods of clearing roads of snow and ice is also vital, explained American Trucking Associations’ Technology and Maintenance Council technical director, Jack Legler, who said that corrosion-reducing materials can often react in different ways to these chemicals.
“The ice-melting formulations might not change significantly, but the stuff on the truck is changing,” Legler said. “You need to be aware of the impact of what is going on there.”
The “hot zone from corrosion activity” on a truck or trailer is around 4 feet above the ground, said Atro Engineering Systems’ area sales manager, Brian Herrington. “Anything metal is going to rust, and anything rubber is going to look like it is dry rotting.”
The most susceptible areas for corrosion are places where dirt and other materials stay wet–especially within metal folds or joints, threaded screws, painted surface breaks, and areas not properly adhered beneath coatings.
“These underbody components commonly experience pitting, crevice, galvanic, and cosmetic corrosion,” said Thomas Peters, the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s maintenance research and training engineer.
What can be done? Finding the right materials and equipment that will lower possibilities of corrosion–regardless of initial investment–is key, explained Herrington.
“You’re going to pay the piper at the back end or the front end,” he said. “It is a lot more expensive to pay the piper at the back end.”
Dupré Logistics out of Lafayette, Louisiana sprays all undercarriage and rails in military-grade paint.
“We put that on bumpers; [we] spray under the cab and on the frame rails,” said Allen. “That helps fight the corrosion. Any moisture can be a killer.”
Kenny Junkin, TMC’s committee on corrosion’s chairman, works for a fleet that invests in trucks that are already blasted, primed, and painted in advance to reduce corrosion.
Additionally, certain materials are on their way to becoming much more cost-effective for fleets than initially expected, Herrington explained. Polyurethane is usable wherever a vehicle has any rubber, including fifth wheels, hood rollers, engine mounts, radiator mounts, and hood latches.
“Years ago, polyurethane was too expensive to consider, but now the price has come so far down [that] the price is basically the same,” he explained.
Grand Island Express specs its trailers with a coating that aids in self-healing on the suspension, explained the company’s director of operations, Deen Albert. Albert noted that running gears, frameworks and suspensions can all rot away particularly quickly if not cared for in advance.
Kenan Advantage Group also specs its equipment, using either stainless, aluminum, or galvanized components to help its vehicles avoid corrosion that often occurs on pieces made of carbon steel. The fleet will also replace items on its vehicles that did not initially come with those kinds of components.
Regular washing is most important, though, explained Matt Bruning, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation. Bruning explained that ODOT washes its trucks frequently with a soap and water solution to minimize the effects of corrosion.
“We’ve tested a variety of anti-corrosion products, and honestly, soap and water is just as effective as anything,” he said.
“That has extended the life cycle of our trailers by about three years,” said Grand Island Express’ Albert of regular washing. Grand Island Express uses an auto-grade detergent solution for its vehicles, which go through the company’s wash bay every week.