Going to Pot: Drop Yard Potholes & How They Form

Drop yard pot holes are the worst! These nuisances have caused more than their fair share of spilled coffee and sent many a drivers’ gear flying around the cab of their truck.

As highly intelligent beings, we like to think that our engineering prowess should be able to produce perfect and maintenance-free installations such as roads and parking lots. However, water is one of nature’s most powerful forces and, in many instances, not even our best engineers can stop it.

With hurricane season upon us, many regions around the country are due to experience heavy rains that will wash away asphalt from roadways and cause drop yard potholes! Let’s take a closer look at how potholes get formed — and how what you can’t see really does make a difference.

What causes potholes to form in roadways?

Here’s an illustration that describes how potholes get formed in paved surfaces.

Anatomy of a Pot Hole

But many drop yards are gravel or “unimproved” surfaces that don’t have protective layers of asphalt. So how does that apply here? Drop yard potholes are all about the roadbed and the water.

Have you ever tried walking across dry sand? Pretty tough, right? What about walking across a pile of rough, washed gravel or stone? It’s hard to keep your balance and your feet sink as they apply pressure because the gravel and rocks are unstable.

Think now about a hot, dry, windy day on the yard. What do you see whenever there is a gust of wind or a truck rolls by? That’s right! Dust.

The dust you see at a drop yard on a dry day is actually powdered sediment that settles tightly together as water passes through it, making it hard and compact enough to walk or drive on. What you can’t see, though, is the groundwater underneath and how it moves or accumulates. When you have heavy rains, that light sediment can be washed away, causing the rocks in between to break loose and move. During winter, freezing and thawing conditions further erode the sediment that holds everything together underneath the surface. Loose gravel then collapses into the depressions left behind.

Damage Caused by Drop Yard Potholes

Damaged equipment means repair costs for the trucking company — and ultimately less money for drivers due to downtime and lost miles. Common equipment failures due to drop yard potholes include, but are not limited to:

  • Tire/wheel damage – Bent rims or busted cords inside tires.
  • Alignment issues – Truck pulls to one side. Wears out tires and drivers.
  • Bent tie rod ends – Creates excess steering play and alignment issues.
  • Steering axle king pin failure – This bolt keeps your front wheels attached to your truck. Failure here is obviously bad news and it can’t be diagnosed until the unit is torn down.

But steering and suspension components aren’t the only items that can fail due to drop yard potholes. Electrical parts such as sensors, actuators, processors, and even connectors can sustain damage if a driver hits a bad drop yard pothole.

What Can You Do About Drop Yard Potholes?

Unfortunately, there is nothing you can really do about the forces of nature. However, there are quite a few things you can do to keep your truck from making drop yard potholes.

  • Slow down. You aren’t driving an S-10 pickup. Rain or shine, upwards of 80,000 pounds–worth of truck exerts a lot of pressure, and the faster you go, the worse it is.
  • Make wider turns. We’ve all seen drivers with tandems slide all the way forward, making tight turns that dig holes into gravel, not to mention increase their chances of an accident because of too much trailer swing. Cranking your steer tires back and forth to extremes with little motion forward or back will break rocks loose and cause potholes.
  • Take it easy with the tug test. Doing a tug test after hooking to your trailer is absolutely recommended, but that doesn’t mean engaging your power lock divider and spinning your wheels. Easy does it.

The Breakdown

There are drivers out there without a sense of ownership who plow right on across the chuckhole minefield because, hey, its not their truck and they don’t have to pay for it . . . but they do. In fact, every driver pays the price for drop yard potholes in the form of increased downtime and lost miles because once you have them, drop yard potholes can easily turn into longer-term problems.

Even though we know what causes potholes to form in roadways, repairing them quickly and effectively can be difficult. For one, there are only so many companies who do quality pothole repairs. Second, potholes are everywhere, which means that repair companies are typically booked. And lastly, effective pothole repairs can only be done during dry weather.

The PAM Facilities team works hard to maintain all of our properties, and the sooner they know about a problem, the sooner they can address it. If you see a drop yard pothole that is causing problems, assume no one knows about it and report it via Qualcomm. Or, talk to the yard’s on-site manager. They’ll get on it so it doesn’t become a bigger problem than it needs to be.

Here’s to a smooth ride and we’ll catch you on the flip side!

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