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March 7, 2012

Mirror, mirror on the truck . . .

Mirror, mirror on the truck . . .

At a task force on Inclement Weather and Visibility held at the Spring meeting of the Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) in Tampa, this week, the loss of rear view vision during heavy rain for drivers of heavy trucks was a concern. It seems that drivers calling in to the Dave Nemo Sirius radio show complain that in heavy rain, they have a choice of either seeing to the rear or seeing to the front, but not both.

Consultant Jerry Hubbell, the task force chairman, said, "Basically they are saying that as they put the wipers on, the additional flow of rainwater obscures the image in the mirror." Hubbell then showed with some fluid dynamics illustrations the flow of the air around the windshield "A" pillar with and without the mirror. Easily seen was the huge wake behind the mirror that draws water and road dirt back on to the mirror surface.

As a result, Hubbell is pushing forward with a Recommended Practice (RP) – that's what TMC does – to let fleet and maintenance managers know about the problem. The RP will explore ways to deal with the problem so drivers don’t have to stop and use a towel and a bottle of Windex to restore rearwards vision. The issue is also being addressed by truck makers and mirror suppliers, but that is no help to drivers today.

Rodney Franklin from Calhoun, Ga., based RRR Transportation said that at his fleet, they had addressed the problem using a compressed air device from Air Vizion. Basically, it’s a sprayer that fits into the mirror head with an air supply that is piped through the electrical lead space in the door hinge area and then up through the mirror pedestal to the sprayer atop the mirror. The air is "Teed" from the seat suspension and there's either a manual button to spray, or an electronic timer that blasts the mirrors on each side on a regular basis. "The drivers love 'em," says Franklin.

However . . . I have another solution and offered it to Hubbell.

When I moved to Southern California, I set up a glamor shoot of some incredible Peterbilts operated by Bill Frampton of Artesia Ice. The eye-candy tractors and stainless steel trailers were used to haul bagged and block ice around the Los Angeles basin. I called the evening before the shoot and was told by Frampton that there was a chance of rain the following day. "We'll have to cancel," he said, "I don't take my trucks out in the rain!"

So there you have it: the perfect fix for rain on the mirrors . . .

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