Monday, February 16, 2015

Off On The Wrong Track

After twenty years of driving a truck, I thought I’d seen it all when it comes to crazy things in the trucking world. But a few weeks ago, I came across something new. Something I had definitely not seen before.

The weather was cold and a lot of trailer brakes were freezing up. A few of the newer drivers at my job had never experienced the joys of that and appeared to be having a difficult time of it. Actually, it’s really not that big of a problem. If the brakes are frozen, all it takes is a little rapping on the bottom of the drum with a hammer. But, if a guy doesn’t know that, or know exactly how and where to hit, it can be a nightmare. One guy apparently decided it was too much of a hassle and didn’t bother.

He made it out of the terminal fine. But as soon as he got to the county road where the ice gave way to dry pavement, he quickly blew two tires. It seems rubber doesn’t last long when skidding across the road.

I was on my way in, about two miles from the terminal, when I saw him sitting on the road. I stopped to see if he was okay, figuring he’d blown some tires. All this I’d seen before. Every winter someone does it. Usually, however, drivers do not stop and just sit there. We were on a narrow two-lane road with no shoulders. It was dark and he’d turned his lights off. Anyone coming around the corner would have a hard time seeing him.

I suggested he drive a half mile down the road to a big graveled lot and turn around. He’d already ruined the tires, it wasn’t going to hurt much to take the trailer back and get another one. Besides, he needed to get off the road.

But Mr. New Driver had other ideas. He thought it’d be better if he just backed all the way to the yard. Yeah, that sounded like a plan! Back two miles around corners, up and down a few hills, down a road with no painted lines, no shoulders, and a ditch on either side, while it’s dark. A new driver! Yeah, I didn’t want to be around for that!

I rolled my eyes, said okay, and drove on to the yard. I had another trip to make, so I switched trailers and headed back out. But I didn’t make it far. That same guy was blocking the road not too far from where I’d left him. At first, I thought he’d just gotten sideways but the closer I got, it was plain he had bigger problems.

Instead of backing all the way, he’d decided to use the railroad crossing to turn around. Yes, he’d backed the trailer off the road, down the tracks, then got the tires of his cab stuck in between the railroad ties. The rest of his cab was sprawled across the road, effectively blocking all traffic. He couldn’t move forward or backward. And now, instead of two blown tires, he had six.

Even more alarming was the guy’s suggestion that he get a ride with me and just leave his truck there—on the tracks! Our shop mechanic, who was on his way home, and I, both nixed that. It took over an hour and involved a chain and me towing the other truck but we did get the guy off the tracks and back to the yard.

Now for the kicker. While backing a truck to the yard from where the guy had stopped seemed like a bad idea, it is certainly not impossible. I know. I’ve done it. Twice. (No, I didn’t blow out my tires). Neither time was by choice. On both occasions, the train had derailed. Since that takes days to clean up, I was left with only one option: back up for two miles around corners, up and down a few hills, down a road with no painted lines, no shoulders, and a ditch on either side, in the dark. I made it just fine too. Of course, I didn’t try backing down the railroad tracks. Call me crazy but I’m pretty sure those were made for trains, not trucks!

Bruce A. Borders is the author of more than a dozen books, including: Inside Room 913, Over My Dead Body, The Journey, Miscarriage Of Justice, and The Wynn Garrett Series. Available in ebook and paperback on iTunes, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Diesel Books, and Smashwords, or at Amazon Profile - Bruce A. Borders also serves as the Vice-President of Rave Reviews Book Club.


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