(SWEETWATER, Texas) – With Interstate 20 at a standstill during this month’s winter storm, instructors in Texas State Technical College’s Diesel Equipment Technology program took the opportunity to teach students about winter preparedness for big rigs.
In Nolan County, portions of the interstate were closed for hours due to icy roads and accidents. Instructor Shannon Weir said the best practice for tractor-trailer drivers was a simple one.
“Everyone should stay off the road if they can,” he said. “There is usually a second freeze in our area, and people should plan ahead.”
Weir used the recent weather conditions as a teaching moment for current students.
“A lot of these guys have worked on this equipment when (the weather) freezes,” Weir said. “It is important that they continue to keep in mind all of the things that need to be done when the weather does freeze.”
He and fellow instructor Lane White offered students and the community some safety tips to prepare for the next winter storm.
“In these big trucks, it is hard to see the black ice, and that causes a lot of accidents,” Weir said. “Drivers know what road conditions look like, and if the road is glistening just a little, it could be black ice in the freezing conditions.”
White said some parts of big trucks tend to freeze quickly, and drivers should always have an ice scraper and de-icing spray in the cab.
“One thing people do not think a lot about is the fact that you need to de-ice the steps of your truck,” he said. “Even step-side trucks should be de-iced.”
White also said drivers should check the truck’s fuel filter before starting a trip.
“The fuel filter is exposed, and diesel fuel gels up really quick,” he said. “You want to make sure the fuel filter is not iced over before startingthe rig.”
Another area to check is the oil level. White said older trucks could use a lighter oil during the winter months to help them operate efficiently.
“Having an oil specific for winter conditions in the truck is the best option,” he said.
Weir said truck drivers should make sure their tires are fully inflated and tread levels are good before traveling.
White said drivers should also check another key component of the truck.
“Make sure your coolant level is correct and you have the right antifreeze capacity in the truck,” he said.
According to onetonline.org, jobs for bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists are expected to increase 14% in Texas by 2028. Diesel technicians employed in Texas can earn an annual average salary of $49,810, the website stated.
Diesel Equipment Technology is offered at the Fort Bend County, Marshall, North Texas, Sweetwater and Waco campuses. It is part of TSTC’s Money-Back Guarantee program. If a participating graduate does not find a job in their field within six months of graduating, TSTC will return their tuition in full.
TSTC offers Associate of Applied Science degrees with different specializations, as well as several certificates of completion, in Diesel Equipment Technology.
For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.