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Old 08-05-2012, 08:23 PM   #1
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How to drive down a mountain?

My trip looms near and I had a sudden panic attack thought... how the hell do I deal with driving down long downhill grades in the bus? Going UP is easy. Stay in the right lane, keep the accelerator to the floor, and put your hazard blinkers on if you drop below 35 mph.

But downhill???
  • Do I just keep my foot off the accelerator and hope I don't pick up too much speed?[/*:m:3vzjw391]
  • Do I downshift into "2" or "1"?[/*:m:3vzjw391]
  • Do I feather the brakes and hope they don't get too hot? .... and if they DO become too hot, how do I handle that????[/*:m:3vzjw391]
Any advice from folks who've done this several times would be very appreciated
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Old 08-05-2012, 10:09 PM   #2
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Re: How to drive down a mountain?

Hola TC

This is a topic that gave me the cold sweats, but fortunately I've managed to avoid any white-knuckle moments, even dealing with some big/long mountain passes in Colorado and Arizona. Here' s what I do:

-Get a copy of the Mountain Directory. I have a copy for the Western US that you are welcome to have. It's a big help for route planning and can give you some idea of what length and % grade to expect.

-Downshift at the top of the pass. You want to go down the hill in the same gear you came up the hill. And if you wait until you're carrying too much speed to downshift, your tranny might not be able to.

-Pick a target speed, which can be tricky because it really depends on the posted speed of the curves at the *bottom*of the mountain (this is where the Mountain Directory comes in handy). I'll use 35MPH as an example. I would let the bus get up to 40MPH, then use the brakes to get it down to 30MPH, then let off the brakes and coast (in gear, utilizing engine braking) until it gets to 40MPH, then use the brakes, etc. This gives some time intervals for the brakes to cool. Mind your redline on the tach.

-I use my hazards on downhill grades too, especially if I am crawling along relative to the other traffic.

HTH
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Old 08-06-2012, 07:35 AM   #3
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Re: How to drive down a mountain?

I feel your pain,about any where I go is 6miles of 7 to 8% grade...I have done it with regular trucks pulling car trailers.

I do as Sean said,start slow at top of grade,be in a llow gear before you start down,whatch your rpm's and use the breaks just as he said.
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Old 08-06-2012, 07:52 AM   #4
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Re: How to drive down a mountain?

According to the class A CDL booklet you use the same gear going down that you needed to get up.......

pick your safe speed and once you exceed that by 5 mph you brake until you're 5 mph below you safe speed and repeat as necessary until you reach the bottom or you're sure it's safe to proceed.
be careful out there.....

link for CDL practice test ..... http://www.thetruckersreport.com/cdl-practice-tests/ lots of good info
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Old 08-06-2012, 09:37 AM   #5
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Re: How to drive down a mountain?

Quote:
Originally Posted by richlindquist

Repeat after me: Flashers are our Friends.

Rich
Reminds me of some old friends
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Old 08-06-2012, 10:44 AM   #6
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Re: How to drive down a mountain?

I got the bird from one truck driver coming out of Albuquerque. I was in the slow lane with my flashers and he passed me going about 1 1/2 mph faster than me. I guess I wasn't climbing the hill fast enough for him. Too bad.
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Old 08-06-2012, 11:55 AM   #7
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Re: How to drive down a mountain?

Quote:
Originally Posted by crazycal
I got the bird from one truck driver coming out of Albuquerque. Too bad.
That probably didn't have anything to do with your bus.......
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Old 08-06-2012, 06:17 PM   #8
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Re: How to drive down a mountain?

Quote:
Originally Posted by crazycal
I got the bird from one truck driver coming out of Albuquerque. I was in the slow lane with my flashers and he passed me going about 1 1/2 mph faster than me. I guess I wasn't climbing the hill fast enough for him. Too bad.
It's normally the "kids", not the experienced truck drivers that would do that. A long time trucker would just slow down behind you, unless there was no traffic, given almost identical speeds.
so, aways "consider the source" when other people are being jerks...
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Old 08-06-2012, 06:26 PM   #9
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Re: How to drive down a mountain?

Quote:
Originally Posted by GreyEagle
... pick your safe speed and once you exceed that by 5 mph you brake until you're 5 mph below you safe speed and repeat as necessary until you reach the bottom or you're sure it's safe to proceed...
You gonna practice that on I-24 Monteagle grade?

Quote:
I-24 in TN
One of the more hazardous stretches of Interstate highway in the United States is located approximately 40 miles (64 km) west of Chattanooga on I-24 in Monteagle, where the highway crosses the Cumberland Plateau. Compared to grades elsewhere, Monteagle's 4Ė6% grade does not come close to the steepest (Interstate 40 between Nashville and Knoxville features 5% grades in each direction), but the slope is protracted over a distance of several miles. While all motorists need to exercise caution, truckers are particularly vexed by Monteagle, and many have died going through this area. As runaway trucks had been a regular and deadly occurrence, in part of the failure or inability of truckers to slow down to the 35 mph (56 km/h) truck speed limit once on the slope, the eastbound lanes were rebuilt in the late 1980s. This work reduced the grade, widened the road, added a required stopping area with traffic lights for trucks prior to descending the mountain, and added two runaway truck ramps where a truck whose brakes have failed due to overheating can exit into a long pit full of loose gravel to safely stop. Owing to geography, these two ramps are on the left side of the grade. This stretch of highway inspired Johnny Cash to write a song about Monteagle Mountain.
Now you can stop at the bottom (exit152) in Kimball at the Cracker Barrel in front of Wal-mart and drink a tall iced tea while you wait for your brakes to cool off!
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Old 08-06-2012, 09:47 PM   #10
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Re: How to drive down a mountain?

Thanks guys! Excellent advice all!

So the next question is what are the 2nd and 1st gears good for? Is there a rule of thumb to follow? Is there a particular time to shift.

I never really thought about how FLAT Virginia is before now, and have always traveled long distances on motorcycle, so steep grades and hairpin turns were sought after, not avoided . It's difficult to wrap my head around NOT wanting to hit those kind of roads.
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Old 08-06-2012, 10:22 PM   #11
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Re: How to drive down a mountain?

At the top of the grade, when you see the signs that read, "Trucks and vehicles pulling trailers, use lower gears" they're talking to you (us). Personally I downshift before I even start down the grade. I've used 2nd on a 9% grade in Colorado.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TygerCub
Thanks guys! Excellent advice all!

So the next question is what are the 2nd and 1st gears good for? Is there a rule of thumb to follow? Is there a particular time to shift.

I never really thought about how FLAT Virginia is before now, and have always traveled long distances on motorcycle, so steep grades and hairpin turns were sought after, not avoided . It's difficult to wrap my head around NOT wanting to hit those kind of roads.
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Old 08-07-2012, 07:01 AM   #12
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Re: How to drive down a mountain?

Quote:
According to the class A CDL booklet you use the same gear going down that you needed to get up
This is probably not a problem in most of our busses, but I don't think this is a good rule of thumb for today's semis. Many can go up a mountain as fast as they want.
Even with my little old 425hp Volvo there were a lot of mountains I could go up much faster than I wanted to go down. Or maybe I'm just super conservative, but I NEVER had
brakes smokin' at the bottom.
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Old 08-07-2012, 08:18 AM   #13
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Re: How to drive down a mountain?

Quote:
Originally Posted by somewhereinusa
Quote:
According to the class A CDL booklet you use the same gear going down that you needed to get up
This is probably not a problem in most of our busses, but I don't think this is a good rule of thumb for today's semis. Many can go up a mountain as fast as they want.
Even with my little old 425hp Volvo there were a lot of mountains I could go up much faster than I wanted to go down. Or maybe I'm just super conservative, but I NEVER had
brakes smokin' at the bottom.
Really good point, maybe a couple of gears lower would be better as smoking brakes is "Not" a good thing...
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Old 08-07-2012, 03:23 PM   #14
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Re: How to drive down a mountain?

The advice others posted is good to follow.

i have driven several times in a bus from detroit to reno and back.

My preference is to follow a big truck down the hill at a safe distance, perhaps 1/4 mile. I like to do the same speed as he does. If he goes 60 around a curve, so do I. If he slows down to 30 mph, so do I!

I-80 is easy from here to there. The only place you need to use your brakes when traveling west is when you drop down into salt lake city.

I-70 is much more challenging.

Know how to adjust your brakes if you don't have auto slack adjusters. When you see a sign at the top of the hill that informs truckers to "check brakes" you should stop, get out, and physically check your brakes with a 9/16 wrench. (assuming you have air brakes)

Go slow, let your engine do the work, press on the brake pedal hard, for short periods of time. DO NOT KEEP YOUR FOOT ON THE BRAKE PEDAL! (or you WILL overheat your brakes.) when you use your brakes, do like other said and push hard for short periods of time. Then take your foot off the pedal giving brakes times to cool down.
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Old 08-07-2012, 06:11 PM   #15
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Re: How to drive down a mountain?

Lapeer.. u be exactly right!

and I 80 is the way to go...
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Old 08-07-2012, 07:18 PM   #16
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Re: How to drive down a mountain?

I have "lost" my brakes 1 time on a downhill
I was towing my race truck(90-ish isuzu amigo) behind my 2000 rodeo (w/trailer brakes)
At some point,the chinese wire broke(yes broke,not pulled apart) to my trailer brakes.
I shifted down to 2nd as I approached the 6 mile 7% grade on 421 out of Boone,nc. To north wilksborro
All wass good for the first mile(I reset odo at top,so I knew how much further)
I was gaining speed and rpms(damn pos 4l30) so I did the normal hard push to slow and cool off brakes...half way down is was def.frkin scared!! Breaks were smoking and fluid boiling....I repeated brakes to floor let off....I was now tachiing 6000 in 3rd!!!and ging way to fast.
I actually grabbed my helmet bag and put my helmet on!yeah no shiat!I was terrified...I had flasheers on from git go.
I was taking corners wide flashiing my headlights...I actually thought about taking a runoff ramp,butwith 7000lbs behind me I knew what would happen.
When I saw the grassy median ahead at the last right turn I knew I was alive.
I coasted for miles hoping to cool the brakes.
I coasted and then stopped at the first business outside of n.wilks andgot out still shacking and feeling sick.
I looked at my still smoking brakes,the rotors were black!the color of my truck.
After about an hour,I limped it the race knowing it was flat with maybe 3 or 4 stops to make.
I had to replace 4 rotors,pads and clipers to get home that s
Sunday.

I never want to exp. That again.....I stop at the top of that and other mnts now to make sure my brakes are good
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