The secret your batteries are dying to tell you

How to wipe out more than a quarter of unscheduled repairs

Interstate Battery on rack next to jumper cables

By Youssef Sleiman, staff writer for Interstate Batteries

"On duty not driving." This 15-minute pre-trip checkup in your drivers' logbooks means they walked the rig, measuring and looking for weaknesses before hitting the road.

But odds are the logbook will show "On duty not driving" the day before a truck battery dies.

Unscheduled roadside maintenance incidents rose across the trucking industry in the first months of 2021, according to the American Trucking Association's Technology and Maintenance Council. Tires are on your drivers' morning checks. So are the air brake hoses, the coupling, the engine compartment and the battery room. However, perfectly good-looking truck batteries still fail. Pre-trip inspections won't detect weak batteries.

Only technicians can.

Free your drivers from unscheduled repairs

Preventive maintenance matters more and more as competition heats up and tight contracts push the industry harder and harder.

"We need to look at trucks the way airplanes are looked at. You can't wait for something to break," said Robert Nuss, owner of Minnesota-based Nuss Truck Group, the 2017 winner of Heavy Duty Trucking's Truck Dealer of the Year.

Out of three reasons for roadside assistance, an extra minute of your techs' time can prevent two: jump-starting and electrical issues from loose or corroded cables.

Darry Stuart, DWS Fleet Management's president of consulting, listed the most important items on a preventive maintenance list in an interview with American Trucker magazine.

First on his list is the battery test.

"This is almost more important than checking the engine oil because if the truck doesn't start, it won't go," Stuart said. "Buy a $100 battery tester and know how to use it. And at every PM, you check the battery; not once a year, not once before winter and summer - every time you conduct a PM."

One minute can save you a breakdown

One extra minute spent testing and cleaning batteries on every PM could save a day or more of downed trucks. Today, most techs already test batteries on occasion. The real questions are "how?" and "how often?" The first answer should be "with a conductance tester," and the second should be "with every PM."

Conductance is what electrical engineers use to reliably calculate a battery's state-of-health and determine its cranking ability over the age of the battery. A new battery may show a cold cranking amp rating of 700. As the battery ages, its CCA drops. Conductance testers, such as those from Midtronics, DHC or Interstate Batteries, can detect battery weaknesses early enough to prevent one from dying far from the barn.

Every owner-operator, fleet manager and over-the-roader stuck with a downed truck knows it's better to replace weak batteries at the shop first.

Cut hours of downtime with a visit to Love's

The best battery test is a recent one.

The next time you stop at Love's Truck Care or Speedco, ask for your equipment's batteries to be tested. It won't take long. The right battery tester gives a quick-yet-accurate reading on how much life is left in your batteries, not just how fully charged they are.

You can replace weak batteries before they die. You just need the ongoing, proactive battery testing to make it happen. And you can count on the team at the nation's largest oil change & PM network to keep you going.