Handy to Have
Useful tools for the savvy truck driver
By Paul Abelson
I love the first quarter each year. It’s when three of the most important trucking industry shows happen: The Work Truck Show, TMC’s Annual Exhibition and the Mid-America Trucking Show. Here are some products that caught my eye, selected because they can make you safer and improve maintenance.
Measure battery conditions. Lots of maintenance dollars are wasted on batteries or alternators that don’t need replacement. Designed by TMC Silver Spark Plug Awardee Bruce Purkey, Purkey’s Fleet Electric has a tool that easily analyzes electrical system condition. You carry it around on a keychain or keep it in a glove box so it will always be handy. Plug it in to any 12 volt power point. With the engine off, you’ll see battery conditions. Run the engine to check alternator condition.
Avoid breakage. One of the most costly rookie mistakes is to unhook the trailer fifth wheel and drive the tractor away with the 7-pin cord (J560) still connected. If you’re lucky, you’ll just need to wire a new plug. But you may need a complete cord assembly, or even a new nose box. EZ-Connector makes a magnetic plug and socket harness that easily comes apart when stressed, yet holds together under normal driving conditions. The connections are waterproof to stay corrosion-free. They attach or come apart instantly.
Need a lift into your truck? The Over the Road Power Step attaches over tanks, steps or to brackets on your trailer. You step up only 12 inches onto the Power Step, which then elevates you to your cab or trailer floor. For mobility-impaired drivers, this could be a career extender. Models are available with lifts of 20 or 24 inches, leaving a short step up to the cab’s door sill.
Tougher storage. Utility boxes are convenient accessories, because they hold a host of needed gear. But metal boxes are heavy, prone to impact damage and require attention to keep them looking good. Not so with Poly Box, a welded polypropylene box that is weather tight, maintenance-free, impact resistant and lighter than comparable metal boxes. United Plastic Fabricating makes Poly Box in the U.S.A. They can be decorated with vinyl graphics.
Better wheel nut grip. I’ve been using Nord-Lock lock washers for more than a decade. They consist of two facing rings with mating beveled surfaces. The bevels are at a steeper angle than fasteners’ threads, so when threads try to back off, movement is limited. That principle has been applied to wheel nuts for hub-piloted wheels. The washer is split to incorporate the Nord-Lock design, with a toothed surface that bites into the wheel’s surface. Just like the lock washers, a properly applied wheel nut cannot back off.
A clamp for all size jobs. When hoses split or burst, your truck can be down and you’ll face a road service charge. You may be able to salvage a hose, but you’ll need the right size clamp. That could mean carrying a large variety of clamps in your tool box. Or, you can carry some wire and the ClampTite clamp making tool. This device comes from the marine industry where access to supplies is even more limited than for trucks. In just minutes, you can create a four-strand wire clamp that secures any hose evenly 360 degrees around its surface.
Prepare for next winter. If you drive in winter in New Jersey, the law says you’ll have to get snow off the top of your trailer or face fines. How soon will it be before other northern-tier states enact similar laws? Heat Matt Products developed HMP Thermal De-icers to melt snow and ice from trailer tops. The electrically heated panels fit under the roof between cross members, leaving cube intact. Drawing about 6 kw for a 53-ft trailer, the 175 pound assembly can be powered by a generator, three AGM batteries or 240-v shore power.