Monday, January 23, 2012

Chaining Up: What It Looks Like

The Pacific Northwest has been battered with storms in the last week or so, causing horrible driving conditions and power outages, but also beautiful landscapes at which to look.

Wednesday morning last week, we picked up a load in Albany, OR that was going to the Pittsburgh, PA area. All that morning (and through many of the following days), the storm set itself in along the valley, the mountains, the river. We had planned to just sit tight on the load and take our time, as we had 5+ days to deliver it.

Once we made it to Portland though, there was enough of a clearing in the storm for us to make it all the way to Pendleton (200 miles away) in the daylight, so we took advantage of the opportunity! We are glad we did, because the next day that stretch of road was awful!

About 15 miles shy of Pendleton, the temperature was dropping to below freezing and you could tell the roads were starting to ice up. We parked it for the night at a truck stop at the bottom of Cabbage Hill, a six-mile 6% grade (down if westbound, up if eastbound). We weren't willing to attempt tackling it in the dark with temps dropping. Hoping it would be clear enough in the morning without needing chains, park it that night, we did.

The next morning forced it upon us though--even though the roads were just wet and not freezing at all, to legally drive up the Hill we needed chains. Thankfully, it was just for 10 miles, then we could take them off.

So, for those of you readers who are "easterners", and have never had to, nor will ever need to, this is what chaining up looks like:

First, you pull out the chains. We have super-singles on our drive tires and duals on our trailer tires, so we have to carry both sizes of chains.

Then you have to straighten them out so there aren't any kinks. This way, they sit nice and snug on the tire and you have less risk of busting the chain.

The chains above are for super-singles; the one below is for a dual.

You have to set the chain up right so the link edge is facing out (so no sharp edges potentially puncture the tire), and the cam-locks (the round, half-moon looking piece) on the outside. They wouldn't do much good on the inside because then you couldn't tighten them!

Then, both Ben and I take part of the chain, each of us holding about a third of the way in from the ends, and place it on top of the tire. We "snug" it around the tire, making sure no kinks worked their way in.

We do this on all the tires we're chaining up (in this case, just the front drives and the front duals, four tires total), and then I roll the tractor and trailer in reverse so we can complete the process: linking up and tightening.

First you hook up the links on the inside, then tighten everything up on the outside; this is done easiest by just turning the cam-locks. Thankfully, our chains were snug enough and tight enough that we didn't need to "bungee" them any tighter (using bungee cords to batten down any slack in the chains that isn't taken up by the cam-locks).

A fellow trucker who was parked next to us must have thought we were pretty green at the whole thing, because he helped us out quite a bit, but refused us to assist him in chaining up his rig. The language barrier prevented much conversation, but help is a universal communication, and we were grateful! He had a very handy cam-lock turning tool that allowed better grip and turning from our standard tool. Thanks for the help, driver!

I've got no photos of the take-off part of chaining, but it takes all of 5 minutes to do. We just unlock and loosen all of our connections, roll the truck and trailer forward or backward, and pull the chains away! That's the easy part!

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