It's important to know what to do in the event of a big rig breakdown. As a professional driver, you'll undoubtedly experience a mechanical failure or a breakdown, sooner or later.

Breakdowns are usually unpredictable and always guaranteed to be annoying. However, they are a fact of life in a trucking career.

There are several things to keep in mind to handle an equipment failure 'like a pro'.

A part of your pre-trip planning, should be to ensure there are resources available to you to find the locations of repair facilities and safe stopping spots on your route, in case of mechanical failure. It's often possible to limp your broken rig into a shop or truck stop where there's food and facilities, rather than being stuck on the shoulder of the road waiting for repair service.

A driver can reduce the odds of breaking down by doing very through pre-checks, post-trip checks and on route checks of the vehicle. It's always preferable to do these checks in daylight whenever possible. Night time visuals with flashlights often miss indicators of potential trouble.


Keep your wits about you. Breakdowns can happen in unsavory places, be it in bad weather or in bad neighborhoods. Making smart decisions can save your life.

Being broken down on the shoulder can be very dangerous. You are exposed to speeding traffic in very close proximity. It only takes one inattentive driver to plow into you on the shoulder. As we all know, these days there are lots of inattentive drivers using their cell phones, rather than paying attention to their driving.
If youre broken down on the shoulder, stay alert. Be aware of the danger of the traffic nearby and stay in your vehicle as much as possible.
If you are driving and feel the truck staring to fail, even pulling over on an off ramp is safer than the shoulder of the highway.
Lady trucker fixing big rig? Go for the widest pullover spot you can find. Turn flashers on and remember to watch your mirrors to monitor the traffic behind you. Be prepared if one of them figures out your situation too late.

  • Ease off the road, rather than hard power turn to the side, if possible.
  • Once parked as far off the road as possible, get out of the truck and set up your flares or triangles behind the truck at 50'-100'-150'? intervals.
  • Tilting open the hood is a good way to indicate the fact that you're broken down and won't be moving the truck anytime soon.
  • Next, try to determine what the problem is exactly and whether or not you can repair it yourself or whether you need roadside assistance. With most trucks these days, odds are you'll need a service call if the problem is electronic? Good chance it will be.
  • Today, common truck breakdowns are often faulty sending units or faulty emission equipment. Both of these require shop repair. Determine what you think the problem is before you call for roadside assistance.
  • If you're a company driver, call your dispatch, and explain you're broken down and then talk to the company shop foreman to see if he can advise you or contact repair services for you.
  • Keep your dispatch informed on your breakdown status throughout the repair process, to aid him in keeping the customer informed. Waiting and repair times can often be brutal these days. Most shops are fully booked from the breakdown issues from the new emission friendly engines. I've heard of week long delays, just to get into some shops... just another good reason to carry a few basic supplies and do the simple repairs yourself, if the situation is right.

Carrying a number of different supplies is always a good idea. These are basic items your tool kit should contain.

  • full wrench set
  • vice grips
  • electrical tape
  • adjustable hose clamps
  • air to air strength hose clamps
  • duct tape
  • plastic zip locks
  • extra oil
  • extra coolant
  • fuel conditioner
  • flares
  • triangles
  • fully charged fire extinguisher
  • windshield washer fluid
  • screw driver set
  • tube of silicone
  • spare headlights
  • bulbs
  • assorted fuses
  • few circuit breakers
  • flashlight
  • full set of warm clothing
  • boots and gloves
  • sleeping bag and/or heavy blankets
  • dry food supply
  • cell phone
  • dispatch after hours phone numbers

This may sound like a lot of gear to travel with, but it's best to be prepared. It's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

Breakdowns as with everything else in professional driving, require the driver to make good safety conscious decisions.

Always keep safety in mind, even during a break down.

Source: SMART Trucking