Dennis Nutt has 18 years behind the wheel and has been with TOTAL since January 2014, and has been a trainer since July 2015.
What is the best way to manage your speed in a downhill grade?
I believe the best way to manage your speed in a downhill grade is to go down the hill 5 to 10mph slower than what you went up the hill. That makes it easier to use the controlled braking method. When slowing the truck I typically apply the brake with enough pressure to bring the speed down to 15mph slower than the speed limit or recommended speed. I try to do this in 8 seconds. Once I reach my desired speed, I let the truck coast to no more than 5mph above. Then I repeat the process as needed. The braking time doesn't heat up the brakes too much. The coasting time allows the brakes to cool a little before applying again.
Does this differ in adverse weather?
The controlled braking method is suitable for all weather conditions.
As a trainer, I don't allow my students to use the engine brake. I want them to know how to negotiate a downhill grade without them because there will be situations where the engine brake is simply not safe to use. The engine brake only slows the tractor down. It does nothing for the trailer. On a downhill grade on wet or icy roads, use of the engine brake can easily put you in a skid or a jackknife because the trailer will continue to try to push the tractor.