Welcome back to an important series, that of incident or accident handling. When you’re in charge of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), you need to know how to handle yourself in an instant, no matter the situation. When safety is at stake, quick thinking is required. It’s something no amount of training can prepare you for.
In our last Part we discussed the basics of first aid and on-the-scene conduct. Today, we will dive into fire prevention and suppression features. In a perilous moment of high heat and potential danger, you’ve got to be prepared.
Preventing fires should be a function of your pretrip and post-trip inspections. Attentive driving is also a factor in preventing fires. If you end up with a vehicle fire, it is likely many of the conditions leading up to it could have been spotted in advance, and therefore been prevented.
The three most common things that lead up to a potential vehicle fire are wiring problems, hub problems or tire problems. You can prevent problems with any of them by focusing on proper maintenance actions.
For electrical problems:
- Do not modify any part of the electrical system without authorization or training.
- When completing your inspections, make sure none of the visible wires are frayed, worn, cracked or broken.
- Be cognizant of signs of short circuits, including wire charring or open wire resting against a vehicle component.
- Take note of any smells that conjure up an image of a hot electrical component.
- Take note of failed fuses or circuit breakers and replace fuses.
- Ensure your battery covers are in place.
- Ensure your battery connections and cables are secure and not in contact with any metal surfaces.
For tire problems:
- Always ensure your tires are properly inflated.
- Make sure your tires aren’t coming into contact with any other vehicle components.
- Take note if the tires go flat throughout the day as the vehicle is parked.
- Repair or replace tires that are regularly losing air.
- If you find a “hot tire” (too hot to touch or smoking) do not operate the vehicle until you find the reason and repair it. Most often underinflation is the problem.
For hub problems:
- Ensure your hubs have an adequate level of oil or grease on them.
- Ensure none of the hubs are leaking grease or oil.
- Make sure your breaks are fully releasing and you have no wheel bearings dragging.
- Make sure that all of your wheels are actually turning. This especially includes trailer wheels and during the winter.
When you are driving, always watch your mirrors for indications of a potential problem. In a situation where you see smoke rising from under the vehicle, stop immediately and locate the problem.
Keep your odds of a vehicle fire low by keeping the following considerations in mind:
- Don’t let trash build up in the vehicle.
- Avoid smoking in the vehicle.
- Ensure people who are smoking are outside the vehicle and at an adequate distance.
- Do not use flammable liquids as cleaners.
If a fire does break out in your vehicle, you will be required to make a critical decision. Can you put the fire out yourself or will you need an extinguisher. If the fire is small, contained to a small area and doesn’t involve a tire, you should be able to extinguish it with a fire extinguisher.
However, if the fire is large in size, involves a tire, or is in an area of your vehicle you cannot access, immediately contact emergency services. If the fire is growing out of control you may need to simply evacuate the area around the vehicle and wait for emergency services.
If you decide to fight the fire, make sure to secure your vehicle before getting out of the driver’s seat. Do not forget to park it in the excitement.
Then, join us in Part III of our series when we take a look at the procedures surrounding using a fire extinguisher.