Besides backing, this may just be the most important thing you learn in the truck after truck driving school.
It's something that with the newer engine brakes, a mistake in a wrong gear can be more forgiving for the newer truck driver, or the seasoned driver who may be in just a little too much of a hurry.
Concerns with Mountain Driving
With all that being said, mountain driving can be a very dangerous thing if you don't pay attention and understand the things that effect your speed going down a 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9% grade. Most likely, when you first start driving you will be with a trainer or a teammate who's an experienced driver.
Unless you start your driving career out West, or West of I-35, you will most likely be learning to drive mountains out East. The "Triple A" of the United States mountains, as I like to call them.
I learned in the "Triple A", with my trainers before graduating to the "Major League" mountains. My first trip down a mountain happened to be in the New York area. Pretty mild, but it was really a valuable learning experience. I was carrying 43,000 pounds, and I was able to experience the effect of the weight, the percent of the grade, and how quickly your truck can pick up speed with that much poundage.
Never Assume Anything
I will say this: all trucks and all truck manufacturers' engine brakes are NOT created equal. You will need to err on the side of caution when you aren't with your trainer and you're in an unfamiliar truck in regards to the engine brake.
Don't assume anything until you experience the engine brake yourself.
When I started trucking, like many drivers, a big draw into the trucking industry was the travel. With the traveling, comes the mountains. With the mountains, comes the incline and decline.
My advice to anyone starting out with driving would be to pay close attention to the percentage % of the decline (or incline) and the length of your decline.
I can't remember a major highway NOT having both of these very important facts. Enough truckers have made mistakes on these mountains that there's a lot of information for drivers now.
In another blog I will talk about the mountains out West, and also some tough ones on the east coast. I'll explain about how in the eastern mountains, you are way more busy downshifting than the large mountains out west where a lot of times you can find the perfect gear, and use your engine low-mid-high button to enjoy your ride down the mountain.
Stay safe out there!
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