Driving in the desert is not hard, but you still want to follow some simple tips to make sure your trips go smoothly. The desert areas of Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah are always well-traveled and offer good access to most of the Western US. While savvy drivers always perform pre-trip inspections and maintenance, consider these tips about desert driving specifically:
Long distances: Outside of urban centers, you’re going to cover a lot of miles between rest areas, inspection stations and fuel stops. A little planning goes a long way. As always, store emergency food and water in your vehicle.
Altitude changes: Driving out West gives you plenty of opportunities to practice what you learned in CDL school about upgrades and downgrades. Don’t do what the drivers next to you are doing: riding the brakes, pushing the engine or coasting. There’s no more important place to drive like a pro.
Temperature changes: The desert experiences extreme heat, which will drop down at night. For that reason and to avoid traffic, you might prefer night driving. During inspection, check your antifreeze and oil levels, fan belt, hoses and temperature gauges. Take it slow, especially when climbing. Pay attention for tar slicks, too.
Brightness: If you drive for a living and take day shifts, you know that sunglasses are a must. This is especially true under the desert sun, which reflects off the landscape and rarely is dimmed by clouds.
Dust storms: High winds and extremely low visibility really prohibit driving, not to mention all that flying dust attacking mechanical parts. There are pretty good warning systems so you can avoid driving during a storm, but if you are on the road, pull over and wait for it to pass.
Flash floods: These also come with pretty good warning systems. When it rains in the desert, not only can the water level rise quickly, the roads also get extra slippery because of all the oil that’s been sitting on the road.
Cattle guards: Be careful when approaching cattle guards that might be present in open-range areas. Sometimes older cattle guards might have sharp edges or hollows that could prove problematic for your tires.
Of course, it’s important to make sure your tires are in top shape. Phoenix Tire renders 24/7 roadside assistance for commercial drivers in Maricopa County and supplies top-of-the-line commercial tires at affordable prices. If you’re up near Flagstaff or Prescott, our partners at Northern Arizona Tire can help you out.