How truckers are arming their big rigs to protect against corrosion

The vast majority of goods in the U.S. are delivered by commercial truck carriers, a major responsibility trend that's unlikely to end any time soon given the shortage of drivers the industry is experiencing. They have no time for delay or breakdowns, two issues that can slow the supply chain down when cold weather rolls around.

In an effort to avoid the potential pitfalls associated with the throes of winter, such as rust and corrosion precipitated by road salt, more carriers are investing in protective coatings.

As noted by Transport Topics, anti-corrosion coatings are increasingly the norm among heavy and medium-duty motor carriers because they've experienced the aftereffects of snowy weather. Although road salt is spread for well-meaning purposes, it nonetheless can exacerbate rusting, which affects undercarriages, engines, exteriors and other rust-prone parts.

Dart Transit Vice President Brett Wacker told Transport Topics that no surface is spared when Old Man Winter rears its ugly head and big rigs are parked outdoors.

"The whole chassis is exposed to the elements," Wacker explained.

"Motorists spend about $3 billion per year in corrosion-related repairs."

Rust damage is a pricey problem for the country's road users, particularly in parts of the U.S. where ice, snow, sleet and freezing rain are common. Indeed, a AAA survey found motorists spend about $3 billion per year in corrosion-related fixes. More than half of the U.S. sees snowflakes in winter, affecting just about every region of the country.

Truck drivers are particularly vulnerable to road salt because they often travel between states. Wacker said that since the weather can't be controlled and road salt is effective in giving roads more grip, motor carriers have to be preemptive and prescriptive, working in consultation with original equipment manufacturers.

"We work with OEMs to make sure they put a good quality product onto these open areas," Wacker told the publication.

Coating starts at the factory
The coating process is just that – a process, corrosion control expert Dan Szczepanik told Transport Topics. One of the steps involves electro-deposition. When trucks are on the assembly line, the parts go into a liquefied vat that not only covers the most exposed portions of the truck with protective layering but also those hard-to-reach places that nature invariably finds.

"[W]hen it comes out the primer, [the dip] will coat all the nooks and crannies with a very even film build, even on the edges," Szczepanik stated.

OEMs determine how many layers to apply and the length of time the protection will hold. The thicker it is, the longer it lasts.

With trucking services in high demand, the hauling industry can't afford to be stymied by service delays caused by corrosion. E-commerce has intensified the importance of timely delivery, as an additional 51,000 more drivers are needed to keep up with the flow of requests, according to The Washington Post, citing estimates from the American Trucking Associations.

Motor carriers are going to various lengths to encourage more Americans to enter the professional driving field, such as by raising starting salaries and offering signing bonuses, the Post reported.

Corrosion protection saves money
Dennis Winn, director of technology and business development at Accuride Corporation, told Transport Topics that corrosion protection strategies, like coating services, enable the industry to make better use of its money. For instance, when coatings are applied to wheel components, carriers can avoid fines associated with safety violations, as rusting can be a red flag for inspectors.

Although coatings are helpful in the fight against corrosion, simple steps that reduce the onset of rust include frequently spraying down big rigs so they're cleared of salt residues, maintenance experts recommend. This effort is particularly important 24 hours after snow storms, when road salt presence tends to be greatest.

How snowy will it be in 2019? Forecasts are mixed, as some are calling for an especially cold and precipitation-filled winter. However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says temperatures are likely to be warmer than normal for the Northeast, Pacific Northwest, Mountain West and portions of the U.S.' Midwest.