One of Those Days…

For about 364 days of each year, I really enjoy working with truckers. Most drivers are great people doing a tough and vital job with real professionalism, and exercising a wide range of behind-the-wheel and in-front-of-the-customer skills.

Then I get a day like today. I’m sitting here at my insurance brokerage looking at driver reports on five major rollovers from within the past week, including a fatality where a truck simply ran over a stopped car-in a situation where all six lanes of traffic had been halted for some time.

Let’s take a look at four of the explanations (or excuses):

o “I was driving an empty dry-van in about three inches of slush at about 70 km/h, overtaking a propane tanker doing about 60. As I got halfway past, my unit started to jackknife, and I went into the side of the tanker. He jackknifed, too, and we went into the ditch together, with his tractor stuffed into the underside of my truck. I had to kick out the windshield to escape.”

Total loss here: $200,000, and thank God no one got killed (the propane tanker was empty, too). Now let me tell you how I think that report should have read:

“I was barreling along in the passing lane at about 85 km/h, overtaking a tanker perfectly controlled at about 50 km/h. My trailer was riding about two inches off the road in three inches of slush, and just hanging on behind. When I got even with the tanker, the wind blast from my unit against the tanker hit my trailer and threw it sideways, as I had no traction whatsoever. I hit the tanker, my trailer floated around in front, and we both went into the ditch.”

Damn, ain’t cruise control great?!

o “I was crossing northern Minnesota in the middle of the night when my trailer felt funny. The trailer slid towards the ditch, and I hammered the tractor to try and straighten it out. The trailer hit a culvert, tore the wheels off, then dug in and rolled over, taking me with it.”

Some ride! The problem here is that the driver didn’t realize his “tire sing” had stopped long before the trailer did its thing. He was obviously on black ice on a high-crowned road, and his tires were running dead-quiet . but he just kept rolling along at speed. Total claim: again more than $200,000, just because he wasn’t alert to the ominous silence I call “angel wings.” Again, ain’t cruise control great?!

o “I was driving on the Interstate about 5:30 a.m., at 95 km/h, when I saw a truck ahead of me slowing rapidly. There was other traffic and I couldn’t move to the left, so I turned right to take him on the corner and lessen the impact.”

Both drivers were injured, and the innocent other trucker is still in hospital.

Now what I think really happened: “I was coming to an interchange, pedal to the metal and mind in neutral. There was a truck entering the highway from the feeder lane, signaling to enter my lane. I kept going, then realized he wasn’t accelerating fast enough. It was too late to slow down, so I hit him.”

The poor guy in the second truck was at the end of his feeder lane, hammer down, and our guy took him on the right side, I guess just to make a better show. This one will only cost about $170,000, and with another innocent trucker in hospital for the holidays.

Damn, ain’t cruise control great?!

o “I was driving in six lanes of traffic at about 75 km/h, in the middle lane, approaching my interchange. I turned into the right lane, just as my front tire blew. I was surprised, so by the time I stopped, the car in front was underneath my truck, and I’d hit the two cars ahead of it. I didn’t get any pictures, or information on any of the other cars. There was some damage to the car underneath me, but only minor damage to the other two. My truck had minor damage, but they bent it with the crane when they lifted it to get the car underneath.”

I’m speechless on this one. One fatality, five cars totaled, one bent tractor. This guy drove 400 feet with the first car underneath him (that was the “bump” he thought was his tire.) Final cost: well over $1 million, and could go to $5 million. Damn, ain’t cruise control great?!

Except for the last accident, all of these occurred between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m., when our minds are barely at idle, and we shouldn’t be on the road anyway, in my opinion. Every one of these accidents was totally preventable by training and awareness of the need to always stay alert. Read the details again. None of these drivers were stupid or inexperienced, but they fell prey to the old assumption, “It can’t happen to me.”

I promise you that it can.

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