Monday, December 12, 2011

The "When" has occurred!

The question is never "If" but "When" and so I announce with great disgust that the "When" has occurred! Finally after three and a half years of driving, averaging out to about 756,000 kilometers that the "when" has happened. I'll get to the "when" in a bit but first some background details...

The whole week was a bit strange to begin with. Monday, December 5th, my first assignment was to hop in with another driver as a passenger and ride down the New Milford, PA., about 7 hours south-west from the terminal. There, I was to pick up someone elses' truck tractor. That driver had had a heart attack while out on the road and landed in the hospital in Binghamton, NY (no he wasn't driving at the time, so you're all safe) He had left his truck and trailer at the truck stop. Someone had already collected the trailer to continue the scheduled deliveries. We got there near midnight and I took possession of the truck.

Now you've got to know that I hate with a passion using someone elses truck, and with several good reasons. First, there is the difference of machine that one has to re-adapt to even if the trucks are the same model, they are rarely the same year so there are important differences. The second and most significant is how the drivers care for their personal space. Some, like me, keep the interior living space clean and tidy. Others, you would consider a "Biohazard" and would wear a bio-suit with blue latex gloves and a face mask just to drive.

The truck I was collecting was dirty, grimy and jam packed with the drivers personal effects... tons of personal effects. To the point where moving freely and sleeping arrangements were seriously compromised. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper when I got in. Once you're in it there is little you can do except try and work around the mess.

The next morning, Tuesday, I went to Tobyhanna, PA to pick up and empty van and make a pickup in Montgomery, PA. and return to the terminal. So far, so good.

My dispatcher had proposed a second run to Louisville, KY which I accepted. However, upon my return, the driver that was bringing the load back to the terminal mistakenly departed to Louisville with the load. The office is not amused but by then the driver is too far away to have him return. So this is Wednesday, and I have no run for the moment. The Louisville run is replaced with a Garner, NC run but it's not ready until late in the afternoon so I help out with some local pickups. By the end of the afternoon, the Garner run is ready so off I go with the delivery scheduled for Friday 07h00. All is good. I'm in my own truck. Happy at last.

You may have heard about the Virginia Tech shooting. What you didn't hear much about was that there was a second shooting between a motorist and a trooper just south of Thornburg, VA. This occurred around 13h00 on Thursday on the I-95 in the south bound lane. This effectively shut down the south bound I-95 or most of it; two of three lanes closed, with the third open lane closing periodically. Add to this: it's Thursday, it's rush hour, I'm just south of Washington, DC. It took me seven hours to negotiate 60 miles. There are few options when driving a truck due to road restrictions so you more or less have to stick it out and crawl forward. Needless to say that this event seriously put my delivery in question. I will spare you the incriminating details of how I managed to deliver on time, suffice to say, I was on time for Friday, 07h00.

So that done, I did another return pickup in Dublin, VA at 15h00. Success! Head north. Stop in Tom's Brook, VA for a sleep and a meal. Next morning, Saturday, off we go, destination Ste-Therese, QC to deliver my load for 18h00 and then to go home for a candle light dinner with the better half.

That wasn't in the cards I guess. On the I-87, near Chester, NY., I was in the right lane, traveling north, when I spotted in my left mirror a small car in the left passing lane coming up fast but heading for my back trailer bumper! I'm thinking, "WTF!" So I move a bit closer to the shoulder to avoid a collision. At that point (and it happens so quickly) the car driver sees the truck, jerks the car to the left back into her lane, looses control, starts to fish-tail in her lane. I brake hoping that she can get ahead of me, she returns to my lane, hits the back trailer wheels, bounces back into her lane, passes me, then hits me again but this time in the front left wheel of my tractor. I'm already on the shoulder but the momentum of the impact kicks me into the grade of the ditch. This pulls me completely off the shoulder and into the ditch. I managed to keep the shiny side up but was leaning into the hillside. Fortunately, no one is hurt.

It took four hours to winch me out of the ditch. Tractor is seriously damaged in the steering linkages and wheels, the fairing on the right side is scraped to hell. All of my personal effects went flying. I guess I got lucky because if I had gone fifty feet more forward, I would have ended up in a deep drop off and on my side.

So to those who hate trucks and say that trucks are dangerous, I say, Bullshit! Cars and car drivers are more so due to their numbers and carelessness on the road. They call us Professional Drivers and that's not for nothing.