Understanding Why Tarps Get Brittle in Cold Weather

Experienced truckers are well aware that extreme cold weather and truck tarps do not necessarily play well together. The colder the temperature, the more brittle tarp fabrics become. Tarps tend to tear or break with just the slightest amount of pressure in extremely frigid conditions. But why does this happen?

To someone not familiar with the science, it may seem strange that a poly or vinyl tarp can hold up very well in hot summer weather but then become fragile in the dead of winter. But knowing the science suddenly clears things up.

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The Nature of Plastics

Vinyl, polyethylene, and polypropylene are all plastic polymers that can be used for multiple applications. Some finished materials are engineered to be extremely rigid while others are a lot more flexible. The flexible plastic polymers owe their flexibility to something MIT calls ductility. What is ductility? It is the ability of the molecules in a polymer to stretch.

Plastic polymers consist of chains of molecules bound together to form a particular substance. If it helps, think of a standard chain-link made of rubber rather than steel. The rubber link can be stretched fairly easily while a steel link cannot. The molecule chains of plastic polymers are similar to a rubber chain-link except on a molecular scale.

The thing to understand about plastic polymers is that the molecule chains only remain flexible in warm temperatures. The colder it gets, the less flexible the chains become. It is possible, under extremely cold conditions, for molecule chains to be frozen in place. When this occurs, a vinyl or poly material becomes extremely fragile. But even if the chains do not freeze, vinyl and poly materials do get more brittle as the temperature falls.

Wind Adds to the Problem

Cold temperatures automatically reduce the flexibility of vinyl and poly tarps by reducing the ductility of plastic polymer chains. When you throw in the wind caused by a truck driving down the highway, conditions deteriorate even further. It’s a matter of the wind displacing surface heat.

Although wind chill does not apply to non-biological materials, the wind chill principal is similar to what happens with truck tarps when exposed to cold. The wind displaces any surface heat a vinyl or poly tarp may hold, thus causing a further reduction in temperature. Any heat that might be absorbed by sunshine will also be displaced by the wind.

As you can see, combining already cold temperatures with the wind of highway travel exposes vinyl and poly tarps to the kinds of conditions that would significantly reduce ductility. The more drastic the combination of cold and wind, the less flexible a tarp is.

Tarp Maintenance in Winter

Now that you know the science behind brittle truck tarps, the obvious thing to do is to take extra good care of your tarps during the winter months. We highly recommend being more careful when applying tarps in cold and windy conditions so as to avoid tears and rips. Make sure to use edge and corner protectors. The right combination of cold and wind could cause a sharp edge to rip right through a cold tarp.

Tarping loads indoors would be ideal as the temperatures will be warmer and it is easy to apply the tarp by oneself. If that’s not possible, it’s always a good idea to enlist any available help to get tarps on and secured as quickly and safely as possible. Also avoid standing on top of a load after a tarp has been applied because cold tarps can be slippery.

So now that

Sources:

1. MIT – http://engineering.mit.edu/ask/why-do-plastics-get-brittle-when-they-get-cold


It’s Time for Your Winter Inventory Check

With winter just a few months away, now is the right time for the trucker’s annual winter inventory check. Look through your toolboxes to make sure you have exactly what you need for tough winter driving and cargo control. Repair what needs fixing, replace what needs to be replaced, and buy any additional trucking supplies you need to fill in gaps in your inventory.

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Mytee Products has everything you need for safe and productive winter driving. We invite you to browse our entire inventory for the following critical supplies:

Truck Tarps
Every trucker who does flatbed work needs to have a full selection of tarps on hand at all times. During the winter months, the trucker’s choice of tarps can mean the difference between adequate protection and taking risks with cargo. In terms of fabrics, there are three main choices:

  • Poly Tarps
    Made of polyethylene or polypropylene, poly tarps are considered all-purpose tarps. They are generally UV-treated and waterproof, so they’re not bad as general tools for cargo control. They may not be the best choice during harsh winter weather that can include very low temperatures.
  • Vinyl Tarps
    Also known as heavy duty tarps or machinery tarps, vinyl tarps tend to be the strongest and most durable that truckers can buy. They provide the most resistance against stress, tearing and abrasions, and they can handle cold temperatures exceptionally well. The best vinyl tarps on the market don’t even flinch at temperatures well below zero.
  • Canvas Tarps
    Canvas tarps are a good choice when breathability is an issue. They also handle cold temperatures well, but struggle with standing water. Canvas tarps are subject to mold growth and could tear as a result of ice buildup. It is advisable to use them with caution during the winter.

Tires and Chains

Every trucker knows how critical tires are in bad weather. Good tires are essential during the winter months, as are chains. Make sure all of your tires are in good condition before winter weather sets in. We also advise truckers who frequently travel through areas requiring tire chains to purchase their own rather than relying on chain banks. We carry both singles and doubles.

Straps, Binders, and Winches

Cold temperatures and high winds can make securing cargo a real challenge during the winter. Cargo control is easier when the truck driver has the right kinds of supplies in good working condition. Therefore, check your toolbox for an ample supply of mesh and bungee straps, binders, winches, and chains. If any of your straps are worn, keep in mind that cold temperatures could cause them to fail at any point. Worn straps should be replaced.

Along with straps, binders and winches, drivers should have an ample supply of corner and edge protectors. Remember that even vinyl tarps can get brittle in cold temperatures. Where corner and edge protectors may not be necessary during the warmer temperatures of summer, they could make a real difference in protecting your tarps once temperatures drop.

Get What You Need Now

Investing in the trucking supplies you need for winter earlier ensures that you will receive everything you order before the weather begins to get troublesome. Winter weather makes for more difficult driving even with the proper supplies on hand. Don’t make your job more difficult than it needs to be this winter by ignoring your inventory of trucking supplies. Order your supplies from Mytee Products; if we do not have something you need, contact us anyway. We might be able to get it for you.

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Treating Trucking Supplies as Capital Investments

Owner-operators and independent contractors driving leased equipment are considered under federal law to be self-employed business owners. As such, they are required to keep track of all of their business-related expenses for the purposes of filing accurate reports and tax filings according to federal and state schedules. Unfortunately, some independent truck drivers do not treat what they do as a business. This is a mistake. We can illustrate just why this is by talking about the supplies needed to be a trucker. Those supplies should be treated as capital investments.

 

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Capital investments, sometimes known as capital expenditures, are defined in the business world as investments in equipment or supplies critical to maintaining or improving the useful life of existing assets. In terms of a flatbed trucker who owns his/her own trailer, the trailer itself would be an existing asset. Installing new tires on that trailer in order to improve its performance and comply with the law would be considered a capital investment.

As our illustration demonstrates, capital investments are almost always made in relation to equipment or supplies. The trucker’s tarps, straps, winches, ratchets, cargo control and so on are all supplies necessary to improve the performance of the flatbed trailer. They are also supplies that are required to do the job of a flatbed trucker. Therefore, they are assets that are obtained through the process of capital investment.

Why Make the Distinction?

Making money in any business requires some degree of discipline to control both income and expenditures. This is why successful companies work with annual budgets prepared by looking at history and future expectations. The company without a budget, regardless of its size and scope, is one at a high risk of failure. This is the whole point of treating your purchase of trucking supplies as capital investments.

When you think of buying supplies as a capital investment, you can start looking at future expenditures in relation to your overall budget. Let’s say your gross income – before taxes and business expenses – is $120,000 annually. Some of that will eventually become the net income you put in your bank account as an ’employee’ of your company. The rest of it will be spent on things such as fuel, truck maintenance, and trucking supplies.

The idea is to work with a budget that projects how much you will spend in the coming year based on historical performance and your expectations of the kind of work you will be taking in the next 12 months. Treating your purchase of trucking supplies as capital investments allows you to plug a number into that budget. Let us use truck tarps as an example.

Let’s assume you replace your flatbed truck tarps every 18 months on average. Most of your tarps are already a year old, so you know they will be replaced sometime during the current budget year. Take the average price you pay for each tarp, multiply it by the number of tarps to be replaced, and enter that number into your budget. That number becomes a capital investment that is essential to keeping your business going.

You might be wondering how all of this helps with the business of running a truck as an owner-operator. Simply put, it forces you to acknowledge at least an estimate of how much will be spent on trucking supplies. This is motivation to set that money aside so that you have it when the time comes. Also it keeps you on the path of owning and operating a successful business that wouldn’t get into cash flow problems. As you estimate your income versus your expenses, it gives you a realistic picture of your business’ short and long term requirements.


Understanding Truck Air Brake Hose Coils

Every seasoned truck driver is experienced enough to readily identify the truck air brake hose coils that run between tractor and trailer. However, for an inexperienced driver, the hose coils might be a mystery. We want to shed light on that mystery by explaining how they work and what their purpose is. To that end, in this post, we will be providing you with a holistic picture on the functionality of hose coils.

First and foremost, the average set up involves two hoses and one electrical cable. The blue and the red hoses are used to operate the air brakes on the trailer while the green cable provides electrical service. Most of the time the three can be seen dangling independently.

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The Benefits

Trailers obviously need their own brakes and lights in order to be road legal. But it would be nearly impossible to create independent systems to make them function. Therefore, the trailer’s brakes and lights are connected to the systems on the tractor by way of electric and hose coils.

Using straight hoses is entirely possible, and some drivers prefer that set-up. But straight hoses have an inherent flaw. In order to compensate for the wide turns that 18-wheelers have to make, hoses have to be sufficiently long enough to carry the distance as tractor and trailer separate on a turn. All of that excess hose is then left to hang freely once the rig straightens out again.

This presents a problem in as much as hanging hoses could easily be damaged by road debris and wind. The solution is to deploy truck air brake hose coils instead. Coiled hoses do not dangle. They act like springs, stretching out as tractor and trailer separate and retracting as they come back together. The hose coil design eliminates dangerous dangling and reduces the risk of damage.

The Challenges

As good as the coil design is for truck brakes and electrical systems, they do possess some challenges. First is the tendency of truck air brake hose coils to get tangled. Think of it in terms of a coiled telephone cord. If you are old enough to remember them, coiled telephone cords tend to get tangled after just a couple of weeks of use. And once they tangle, they can be difficult to get untangled. If a brake hose coil were to tangle en route, the next turn could pull air hoses right out of their couplings.

The other inherent weakness is that hose coils tend to be more prone to severe temperatures in either direction. Because there is more material to work with, and that material has to remain flexible, severe temperatures can cause cracking and breakage. Fortunately, this does not happen all that frequently thanks to the superior materials manufacturers now use.

Here at Mytee Products, we now carry truck air brake hose coils and other related products. We are especially proud of the Tectran 3-in-one AirPower Line  that all but eliminates what Tectran affectionately refers to as the ‘rats nest’. With this brand-new product installed, you will never have to worry about your hose coils getting tangled again. You can check it out here on our website.

Truck air brake hose coils are a normal part of the trucking business. As a truck driver yourself, you want the highest quality hoses and coils you can get your hands on. You want tough products that are well-built and reliable, but still well within your budget. We have just what you need here at Mytee Products.


Truck Air Brakes and Jake Brake: Not the Same Thing

Our role as a leading provider of truck tarps, cargo control equipment, trailer parts and other trucking supplies gives us the opportunity to speak to a lot of people within the trucking industry. It also gives us the opportunity to explain some of the finer points of how trucks work. For example, we sometimes have to explain that a truck air brake and Jake brake are not the same thing. What confuses people is the fact that the Jake brake releases compressed air when activated.

It’s true that both truck air brakes and Jake brake are related to compressed air in terms of function. But that’s the only similarity. The standard air brake is the truck’s equivalent to the hydraulic brakes on a standard passenger car. The Jake brake is not really a break at all. It is a mechanism that helps slow down a truck by manipulating how the diesel engine fires. Both kinds of brakes are explained below.

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Truck Air Brake System

A typical truck air brake system utilizes a combination of storage tanks, pumps, and valves to pressurize and depressurize the system. When the tank is empty, the system is depressurized. This results in brakes being fully deployed. In order to release the brakes, the storage canister must be filled with air. This is what we call recharging. The need for recharging explains why truckers have to let air tanks fill up before they can engage first gear and drive away.

Inside the cab, deploying the brakes works the same way as it does in a standard passenger vehicle. The driver simply depresses the brake pedal to stop the vehicle. What’s different is this: instead of forcing hydraulic fluid into the brakes, depressing the brake pedal releases air from the storage tank, thereby moving a piston that forces the brakes to engage. Releasing the brake pedal allows the system to recharge itself, releasing the brakes.

Jake Brake

A Jake brake is a compression release engine brake attached to a diesel engine. Activating the brake opens exhaust valves on the engine to release some of the compressed air inside. This slows the vehicle by slowing down combustion. The Jake brake can slow an idling vehicle substantially.

To understand this better, think of your own passenger vehicle. Even when you take your foot off the accelerator, power is still being transferred from your engine to your transmission and wheels. The only way to interrupt that power is to either shift the car into neutral or shut off the engine. The same is true for big trucks.

The Jake brake slows the truck by reducing the amount of power transferred to the wheels. It allows the truck to slow even when it is still in gear, which is why you might sometimes hear the loud noise caused by a Jake brake as a truck rolls through a lower speed zone. Rather than disengage the gear and apply the standard air brake, a driver may simply choose to take his/her foot off the accelerator and temporarily activate the Jake brake.

The main downside to the Jake brake is that it can make a tremendous amount of noise when deployed. For that reason, some municipalities have limited the use of Jake brakes within their jurisdictions.

As for the standard truck air brake system, it also makes a unique sound. Deploying air brakes tends to make a whooshing sound followed by a hard squeaking. Neither of these noises is terribly loud as long as the system is functioning properly.