I’m posting this to let all commercial drivers know one certainty:
You never when it could happen to you.
Keith had started his day like any other; after his 10-hour break, this 20-year veteran pre-tripped his truck and got out on “the big road,” heading east across Missouri. Pennsylvania was a long ways away, and it was time to get going. Only an hour and a half later, his “normal” day of driving would change. A westbound SUV blew a tire and lost control. Our driver caught the blow out in the corner of his eye. Before he knew it, the SUV swerved sharply to the left, and was coming across the median! He’ll be okay – there’s barrier cables on this stretch of interstate. As the SUV hit the median, it suddenly went airborne, and went over the top of the barrier cables! Our driver couldn’t believe it as he saw the SUV coming at him airborne! There was no time to react or evade the crash; all he could do was hold on tight. The “unthinkable” was about to happen to a veteran driver!
Then the inevitable happened; the SUV struck our truck on the left side just behind the driver’s door, while still airborne. The passenger of the SUV had already been ejected by this point. The driver, still belted-in, was committed on this ride. After hitting the fuel tank on the left side of the tractor, the SUV continued toward the trailer, sheering the drive axles off of the truck. The landing gear of the trailer eventually stopped the rearward travel of the SUV. By this point, the sideward impact momentum (and reflex braking action of the driver), had caused the trailer to jacknife. The tractor/trailer continued to slide almost 200 feet before coming to rest. All of the driver’s experience in handling a truck came into play as he avoided a “rollover” accident; maintaining control until full-stop. Never stop driving until the vehicle stops! We praise this driver’s skill under pressure! He is an example to all professional truck drivers. The tractor looked worse than many rollovers I’ve seen!
Emergency services were already on the way. Our driver was badly shaken as he checked on the other driver. When emergency services arrived, he called in. I could hear the stress in his voice, and did everything possible to help him through a very bad situation.
After the dust settled, injured folks transported to the hospitals, and all vehicles towed, our driver (who, fortunately, was not injured) was safe and sound for the night in a nearby hotel. The occupants of the SUV were released from the hospital that night, lucky to be alive. The next day, we had another tractor towed to the driver’s location. He loaded-up and got underway, like any professional driver would do.
As a safety professional, I want to remind you that this – while very unfortunate – shows us that you never know when it could happen to you! So – if you think it’s okay to run “just a little” illegal, maybe “cheat” on your “comic book” a little – think again! This is a stark reminder to all commercial drivers that it can happen to anyone at anytime. Fortunately for our driver, he was running legal – “the Comstar way” – so he was okay. What if he been running in violation? Do you think the outcome for him would have been the same? Do you really think he would have just continued on his way? In this regulatory – and enforcement – environment, I submit that he would not have. Most likely, he would have been in custody with the State Police for violating his Federal hours of service, and some local prosecutor would be licking his chops at the chance of putting one of those “dirty” truck drivers in jail! You see, if he was in violation of his hours, he should not have been there at the time of the accident! That means he could be held at fault since he would have been violating Federal law when the accident occurred! …See my point? Trucks, these days, are very easy to track minute by minute! So, any time you think “just another hour,” or “just gotta get there,” think again!
You need to drive legally at all times, even when you think nobody’s watching!
…Because you never know when it could happen to you!