Once a driver has been with the company for a while and demonstrated that they are safe and productive they are likely to be assigned to a brand new truck.
While there’s a lot to be said for that new truck smell and a feeling of ‘starting off fresh’, we as drivers can’t just assume all is well and not pay attention to its overall condition.
In my previous career as a mechanic—and as a driver—I have found numerous defects with brand new trucks that may have had a few things overlooked before they were shipped from the factory.
What can go wrong?
It can be something as simple as a dash panel that wasn’t installed properly on the assembly line, a sun visor that has a few loose mounting screws, or something far more serious such as loose suspension bolts or wheel seals that may start leaking a short time after the truck is placed into service. A lot of problems can reveal themselves within a shakedown period of a few thousand miles.
Before you leave out on that first trip.
Once you have your gear placed into your new truck and the old truck has been turned in, be sure your new ride has a permit book. It may not have a license plate yet so be sure it has a Nebraska Temporary Registration as well as the other required permits. Place the IFTA decals on either side of the truck in the proper locations. Note the expiration date on the temporary registration and contact the permits department if you don’t have the permanent registration and license plates as the date approaches.
On the road.
Pay close attention to how the truck is tracking while on the road. If the steering wheel is not straight and/or the drive axles feel like they are fighting each other, get to an AMS shop and ask them for an alignment.
Do thorough pre-trip inspections!
Never just assume all is well and fail to do a good pre-trip inspection.
The engine’s cooling system may still have some air trapped in it from when it was filled at the factory and it often takes awhile to bleed that out. This will usually result in a low coolant level light even though there are no visible coolant leaks.
New diesel engines typically do use some oil until the break-in period is complete- which is usually at around 150,000 miles. If you have to add a gallon of oil more often than every 15,000 miles there is likely an internal problem. If the engine oil level goes higher than the full mark or you smell fuel on the dipstick when checking the oil that is a sign of fuel dilution which results from an internal fuel leak. That will dilute the oil which could destroy the engine. Do not start the engine until you have contacted our breakdown department as the truck will likely need to be towed to a shop to prevent engine damage from taking place before it can be diagnosed and repaired.
A fuel system can contain dirt or other debris when a truck rolls off the assembly line. If so, the fuel level in the clear bowl on the fuel filter will rise after a few thousand miles—which indicates that it’s clogged when it reaches the top of the filter medium. That will eventually cause fuel starvation and a loss of power. Contact breakdown or check in with an AMS shop if you are at a terminal.
Wheel seals on all axles as well as the hub oilers on the steer axle need to be monitored closely as well. Take note of the fill line on the oiler windows around the rubber filler plugs on the steer axle. If the oil level is above that line it could spray the excess oil onto the rims and lead one to believe there’s a more serious problem. If you see grease or oil on your brake shoes and/or on the inside sidewall of your tires that is an indication of a leaking wheel seal.
Keep a spare set of wiper blades.
All too often the wiper blades that come on a truck from the factory can break apart prematurely at the worst possible time—such as during heavy rain or a snowstorm. Ask for a pair at the parts counter while you are at an AMS shop before you roll out on your first trip.
New trucks often have their pros and cons but doing your part as a driver to help catch minor problems before they become something major will help ensure many safe miles with less chance of breakdowns.