Driving Truck Through Donner's Pass

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OshagHennesy's Comment
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I watched a few videos of people going through Donner's Pass. Some didn't make it. Apparently it's known trouble area for truckers. I'm new and have yet to get behind the wheel so. ..How do you get down a hill like that without heating your brakes, losing your air? Common sense is to take it slow.

Daniel B.'s Comment
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I go through Donners very often. In fact, I went over it yesterday. It's not an easy task and is certainly dangerous. However, it's dangerous to those individuals who underestimate it. I see it all the time, trucks descending those steep, continuos grades in a high gear.

My advice to you would be to take it slow. Use a gear or two lower than the one you used to climb the grade. I personally use either 8th or 7th gear (10 spd) depending on my weight.

It's really not that bad if you just take your time. I've been through donners more than any other summit and I've also seen it at its worst. You're the captain of the ship when you're behind that wheel so choose a safe speed that you're comfortable with.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Fatsquatch 's Comment
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Donner Pass doesn't really bother me that much. Yes, it's loooong, and steep, and you have to make sure you're in a lower gear and keep an eye on your speed. But it's also relatively straight and has a few flat spots on the way down. There are a few bends here and there, but not as many as, say, Siskiyou Summit or Cabbage Hill. Those aren't quite as long as Donner, but they're just as steep if not more so, since there are really no flats until you get to the bottom, and they're both riddled with 45-50 mph curves. Parley's canyon in Utah is another steep n bendy hill that makes me cringe. But once you're more familiar with hills in general, and certain hills in particular, it's not quite so butthole-puckering to descend one.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Jay R. R2-Detour 's Comment
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Donner Pass doesn't really bother me that much. Yes, it's loooong, and steep, and you have to make sure you're in a lower gear and keep an eye on your speed. But it's also relatively straight and has a few flat spots on the way down. There are a few bends here and there, but not as many as, say, Siskiyou Summit or Cabbage Hill. Those aren't quite as long as Donner, but they're just as steep if not more so, since there are really no flats until you get to the bottom, and they're both riddled with 45-50 mph curves. Parley's canyon in Utah is another steep n bendy hill that makes me cringe. But once you're more familiar with hills in general, and certain hills in particular, it's not quite so butthole-puckering to descend one.

That's not good considering I was butt-puckering in West Virginia......

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HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Jopa's Comment
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I watched a few videos of people going through Donner's Pass. Some didn't make it. Apparently it's known trouble area for truckers. I'm new and have yet to get behind the wheel so. ..How do you get down a hill like that without heating your brakes, losing your air? Common sense is to take it slow.

I live just above Donner Lake towards the bottom of the hill, above the eastbound roadway on I-80, just before the long, flat area around Truckee ... in fact I can hear trucks descending the hill from my house on quiet evenings ... you always know when Daniel goes over the hill by the dozens of trucks trapped behind him as he "crawls" down the hill, trucks honking and giving him the single finger greeting as they finally find on opening to pass his scared little butt ... JUST KIDDING!!

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Actually, the "Donner" experience depends on if you are eastbound or westbound ... going west is fairly uneventful from the summit (~7,000 feet) for several miles as long as you have good speed control working ... for Newbies with a lot of weight I recommend you use 8th gear with your jake setting on "high" until you get a good feel for how your truck responds ... 9th gear will probably be fine after you've done it a couple of times ... there is a steep 6 degree drop just past the I-80/SR-20 split but it is short and is followed by an upgrade that will eat up your excessive speed if you went a bit too fast ... however, just after this is a mandatory "brake-check" area at Nyack just before you hit the longest, steepest grade on the westbound side called "Whittmore" ... this will byte you real quick and you will see guys HAULING by you and you think it must not be as bad as you anticipated ... they are "empty" and it IS as bad as you thought ... this is a good one to be overly cautious on (8th gear MAX at first) until you've done it a couple of times ... then it's common sense and experience that will guide you ... from the bottom of Whittmore all the way to Auburn you will encounter narrow sharp turns with 6 % grades several places but just don't get too self-assured until you have the experience you need ...

... going east takes you UP all these same hills which turn out to be long slogs against gravity ... keep them in mind, it helps you visualize future westbound trips ... the excitement eastbound begins at the actual summit which has a rest area just before you start down ... stop for a brake check or just to catch your breath as this is the worst eastbound stretch you will encounter ... just after the summit it get real steep real quickly with long sweeping curves ... 8th gear MAX until you have a feel for the decent and then good "snubbing" techniques to keep your speed under control ... in all of these you HAVE to keep the speed under control cause these grades will eat your brakes alive if you don't ... after about 4 miles you really can't tell but the grade is slowing flattening out and if you are in a small amount of trouble, you will be getting relief shortly (just hang in there) ... you can see Donner Lake on the right the whole way down along with the backbone of the Sierras stretching off to the south ... if you've never seen the scenery before, your in for a real treat - HOWEVER - snap out of it and keep yer damn eyes on the road!! Just past an observation point on the right (about 5 miles from the summit) the road make a sweeping turn to the right and passes through the DLI (Donner Lake Interchange) and from there all the way to the Truckee flats (where Daniel gets out and kisses the pavement) it a pretty gentle go ... on towards Reno, about 7-10 miles east of Truckee is a series of 6-7% snakes that look a lot worse than they are ... most guys stay in 10th gear but - once again - speed "control" is of the utmost importance ...

Two things to keep in mind over the whole 100 miles that constitute "Donner Pass" (from just east of Auburn, CA to the CA/NV border) ... 1) you are going to have guys who will "fly" by you and make you think you are being "too" cautious ... you aren't ... many times they re empty of lightly loaded or they have just been on that stretch of highway and know it really well (although there are ALWAYS going to be lucky idiots) ... until you feel experienced enough to be confident, stay cautious ... those brakes CAN go away in a heart beat ... and 2) the CHP over the whole route can be thick as thieves and WILL sit at points where trucks tend to pick up speed ... 55 MPH is 55 MPH and they don't care how much experience you do or do not have - they'll write you up (ooooo, expensive mistake, that one is) ...

Otherwise, enjoy one of the most beautiful parts of California which IS the most beautiful state in the whole place ... embarrassed.gif

Jopa

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HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Jopa's Comment
member avatar

Oh yea, if it's snowing, all bets are off ... unless you have a death wish or just LOVE the sound of chains "clanking" against the trailer, hit the sleeper berth and wait for clearer weather (unless you have lots of miles to your credit - winter driving miles) this place is no place for amateurs and newbies ... and the traffic can be unbelievable on weekends and holidays as I-80 is the main road into Northern California from the rest of the country and the main route for San Francisco area ("Bay area") folks to get to Tahoe and Reno ... during snowy times it can take 6-8 hours to make the 100 mile trip back to Sacramento (Sack-O-Tomatoes) ...

Jopa

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Sleeper Berth:

The portion of the tractor behind the seats which acts as the "living space" for the driver. It generally contains a bed (or bunk beds), cabinets, lights, temperature control knobs, and 12 volt plugs for power.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Robert B. (The Dragon) ye's Comment
member avatar

Well thanks Jopa for writing the next Stephen King novel and making newbies who have never driven the pass soil their pants a bit.

I've never been through in a big truck but look forward to it. I can say that on a motorcycle or in a nicely prepared performance vehicle, it's breathtaking and fun.

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar
That's not good considering I was butt-puckering in West Virginia......

Hey, let me tell ya.....don't let anyone fool you. The mountains in the East are treacherous! They tend to be more steep and winding than many of the hills out west. The elevations out west are higher and that makes people assume the grades are a lot worse. But that's not necessarily the case. Go down some of the mountains in West Virginia on I-64 or run I-70 & I-68 from Hagerstown, MD to Morgantown, WV and hang on for dear life! Or dare to get off the Interstate in Pennsylvania and you can easily find yourself descending 10% grades for miles with switchbacks. There are steep, treacherous descents from Maine to Tennessee. If a driver were to make the mistake of underestimating them because he's in the East he may not get a second chance to make that mistake.

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

Tim F.'s Comment
member avatar

I'm sitting at the bottom of my. Nemesis....Fancy Gap. Va I-77..just as you go into NC. Let Me tell ya...8 th gear with the engine brake...all the way. I tried 9 th....and the 40k in the box just pushes way too much. You gain way too much speed in 9 th. Just my two cents.

The key is to take your time. If you go 5 mph slower for 6 or 8 miles....what are you really losing...nothing.

Ray F. (aka. Mongo)'s Comment
member avatar

Like the young Mr. Daniel I have been over Donner several times also. Just slow down and take your time in lower gears and use the Jake brake if possible. Now Cabbage hill headed west bound is the one that makes me a tad nervous.

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