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Johny Peterson

Desert Driving Tips For Truckers

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Being a truck driver is no picnic. Being a truck driver in the USA, where a coast-to-coast trip can take anywhere from 7 to 10 days, is a good way to become a non-fiction writer. While most of the stories that truckers tell each other could be considered as comical, there are some experiences that you won’t be laughing at.

Take for example a desert breakdown with no mobile service, no spare truck and trailer parts, having only two candy bars, and a half a gallon of water. Have you ever heard of that, or perhaps you have experienced this yourself? Did you know that 47 percent of the U.S. remains unoccupied? Alaska for example, is the most sparsely populated U.S. state, and accounts for half of that bare land. The other half is in the southwest deserted states: California, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico.

There are a bunch of interstates that run through these western deserts, so if you are headed to any one of them, make sure you and your truck are ready.

Maybe you are an experienced desert driver, and you might think to yourself “I already know all of this stuff. Besides, nothing ever happens to me”. However, take a few minutes to consider the following tips. There is no such thing as being too prepared when you are about to drive hundreds of miles in a hostile environment.

5 things that you should keep in mind about the desert

Many people tend to leave things to chance. Some don’t take a bathing suit with them on vacation, and end up buying it when they arrive. Meanwhile, some like to prank MMA fighters, and some desperados go on blind dates.

But when you are about to travel through a desert, the “I’ll figure something out” approach is no good. There are a few things that you should realize about deserts before taking off:

1. Mobile service will fail you
Yes, it will. We are so used to completely relying on smart*****s that we can’t imagine when they will become totally useless. A desert is one of those isolated areas where no service is available. So if your truck breaks down, calling anyone, including 911, is impossible. Digital maps won’t download, and your once all-powerful, costly device turns into a flashlight.

2. You have seen deserts like this in movies. But this is not a movie anymore

There is a reason why they filmed Mad Max in a desert. It is a perfect location to depict post apocalyptic scenery – there aren’t that many living things. It is a dry, uninhabited, and merciless zone that won’t be nice to you if you are not properly prepared.

3. It can be surprisingly cold there

A desert always appears to be hot, but like they taught us in school, this place is nothing like other places on Earth. Deserts can experience extreme temperature changes, with highs recorded in the 111 to 120° Fahrenheit range, and lows in the 4-10° F range.

4. You can be fined, apprehended or arrested

The majority of North American deserts are private or military property. So think twice before neglecting "No Trespassing", "Keep Out," or "Private Road" signs. Even if it seems that no one is around, be careful, reasonable and courteous.

5. Your truck can burn your skin

Scorching desert UV rays can overheat metal truck and trailer parts. Don’t touch them with your bare hands, as they can cause significant skin burns, even of first or second degree.

6. Not every hitch-hiker is nice

There are quite a few prisons in the southwestern part of the United States. Keep this in mind and watch for the road signs that state “Prison Area”.

Precautions to take when heading out

Proper preparation can make the difference between getting home alive and not getting home at all. Henceforth, remember why a section there is called Death Valley, and start taking notes.

Stick to your planned route

When you are on a long-haul, your manager is fully aware of which route you should take. Even if you think they are a pain in the neck, and don’t know squat about being on the road for weeks. You’re the one eating lousy truck stop food, and sleeping in a confined cab after all. But they just might be the person who will help to locate your broken down truck and save your life. This is of course unless you change the route without letting your manager know.

Do a comprehensive pre-trip truck inspection

It is an integral part of any trucker’s routine, and we’re sure you do it prior to every long-haul trip. But before setting off to the desert, you should double check it twice. Pay extra attention to your brakes and tires, they should definitely be in top condition. Brakes can act funny on fiery pavement and in the beating heat, while unusual and rugged road surfaces can often cause tires to have blowouts. So:

Be prepared for a tire change
Changing a tire on a commercial truck is not the same as doing it on a car, since semis and tractor-trailers are too heavy to be lifted up with a jack. You can’t rely on a truck stop either because you’ll be in the desert, remember? There are a few truck stops but they are widely dispersed. The distance between them might be 20 to 40 miles. So you need to have the proper tools to dismount and remount a tire by yourself.

Bring other devices and supplies
Your ***** will most likely let you down, so take a GPS device and/or a PLB (personal locator beacon). If you haven’t heard of a PBL before, it’s a small electronic device that sends out a personalized emergency distress signal to the nearest rescue service. They are meant to be used in life-and-death situations and are very popular among backcountry drivers.

It’s crucial as well to have good old physical maps, that is - the latest version of them, not the ones that you have been using as a windshield cover for the last 5 years.

Check your fluid levels
There is no need to explain why you should check the oil and coolant levels before heading to the desert, right?

Fill up the fuel tanks
In the desert gas stations are few and far between, so fill up your fuel tanks beforehand without having to rely on local refueling. Bring a truck stop/fuel stop map as well. You can make such a map by simply flagging the dots on your physical sheet. And please don’t take another driver’s word for the location of fuel stops, make sure to call each place before you leave town to confirm that they still exist.

Weapons or firearms?
Should you carry a weapon? It is an open-ended question and is up to you. The desert is not a very dangerous place criminal-wise, but as it was stated earlier, you might encounter some unpleasant interactions. Considering that the only one you can rely on is you, a weapon might be a good idea. But only if you have a valid firearms license, of course.

Take a wristwatch
The world’s most prominent watch and jewelry brands have been experiencing a significant drop in sales. In the age of smart*****s, people are questioning the use of watches because there is always a device in their pocket that keeps track of time. We are not going to bring up a timeless style argument on how everything is changing nowadays. We just urge you to take a watch, just in case. Even if you have stopped wearing it, it will come in handy in the desert, and you’ll make use of something that doesn’t require much power.

A list of the essential items:
  • Water: 1.5 gallons per person per day
  • Non-perishable food
  • First aid kit
  • Toolbox
  • Spare truck and trailer parts
  • Duct tape and wire (for a quick fix)
  • Jumper cables
  • Fluids (coolant, oil, power steering fluid, etc)
  • Safety gear
  • Extra clothing
  • Blankets
  • Waterproof matches or a lighter
  • A flashlight
  • A signal mirror
  • Road flares



The most important thing to always take with you is your common sense. Be thorough when you are preparing for your desert assignment. Your life depends on it!

Source: Wallwork Truck Center

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Updated 12-18-2018 at 09:19 AM by Admin

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Trucking

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