Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thursday

What was going to be an eternity of a day - nothing to do basically - turned out pretty darn good - excepting a little incident this morning. Semi was loaded with ductile iron pipe.
This is VERY heavy pipe. Each stick of 8 inch diamter pipe I was hauling weighs approximately 500 pounds. That's only 20 feet of pipe - get the idea.

I was on the Loop 101 - a newer freeway they built to try and alieve some of the congestion problems in the metro Phoenix area. That particular freeway is just as congested as all the rest of them. In fact, they are already in an expansion project on it - which is slowing traffic down considerably.

Anyway - I was cruising about 20 mph in the slow lane, following behind traffic. Heavy traffic, it was one of the rush hours. To the point of the matter - a car cuts in, slams on it's brakes. I had no choice and my mind raced at the same time - I knew I had to slam on my brakes to avoid running this nitwit over, and I also knew that kind of force would cause some or all of the pipe to slide forward on the boards they are on.

Prophecy come true. Fortunately I wasn't going that fast or I wouldn't be here, writing to tell you about this right now. If I were going 55 and had to do that, I would probably either be dead or definitely seriously injured. Even with a Headache Rack - heavy pipe with enough force can ram a hole right through that diamond plate - and right into my head - hence the terminology: headache rack.

Oh, and mind you, I had PLENTY of strapping on that pipe. More than legally required. The straps, as always, were cranked down to the point that you can play harp music on them by simply pulling the edge of the strap with your finger. I learned about strapping loads when I worked for J.B. Hunt. They show you videos of tragic, horrific accidents that have occured with understrapping. One such video? Titled: "If Only One More Strap....". They had graphic photos of it. It wasn't a video that time, it was photos.

The photos were of a load that had come off the side of a truck, smashed onto the top of a State Trooper's cruiser and instantly killed him. The scientists involved came to the conclusion that if that driver had only put one more strap on that load, that Trooper would still be alive today. In other words, the driver did not put sufficient straps on the load and it caused someone their life.

5 sticks of 500 pound pipes came shooting out of their "resting" places and into my Headache Rack. As I said, I wasn't going more than 20 MPH - the rack stopped the pipe and slightly dented the rack. It was sitting RIGHT there - no turns to be made without more damage to the rack/truck. I didn't even get mad at the driver, who undoubtedly has no clue that their life could have ended today - because of the seriousness of the issue at hand. I pulled instantly off the freeway - I was beside an entrance/exit ramp, got off the highway enough and then pulled over on the gravel on the side of the road.

Damage - almost non-existent. I will tell you right now that I would rather TRASH a truck than kill someone in a car, regardless of the fact that the car's driver is totally at fault for causing the damage. I have no desire to live my life with the thought of someone's death due to something I was doing, even IF it was definitely NOT my fault. If an accident had occured, I would undoubtedly have recieved a ticket. You have to be able to prove that the car's driver made an unsafe lane change. Today's incident makes me want to bring my camera with me at all times and simply run video constantly while I'm driving to protect myself.

I get out of the truck - and stand there looking at this ridiculously heavy pipe, thinking I'm going to have to call some people to come and help me move it.
I'm not a weak man - my life and lifestyle has had me with sufficient strength to life very heavy objects. Especially this job - 70% of the things I have to deal with, or even more than that, are extremely heavy. It's something I love about my work - keeps me moving, keeps me exerting energy to extremes, keeps me at least somewhat fit.

I got up on that truck and gave all of my strength, with good footing, to picking up the end of that pipe and sliding it back. To my surprise, it actually moved. Note that this pipe is sitting on boards, not on something that is easily give to making something on it slide like butter. It took maybe 10 minutes and I got all of it back to where it should be. Cranked the straps down again, and took off.

I've been in a couple of serious accidents - not my fault - but I can tell you from experience that any kind of situation like that can cause you to lose confidence in what you are doing. You lose confidence in driving a semi, the road is a very dangerous place for everyone else around you. This morning, I deleted any thought of that and just continued on driving like nothing had happened. There are no lessons learned here that I haven't already learned. People driving cars do stupid things in front of semi's - and seasoned truck drivers learn to interpret clues and signals of what is going to happen in front of you. I did start slowing down as soon as I saw what was going on, but the action of this driver was too much: I had to hit the brakes hard enough to avoid a SERIOUS collision.

That was the closest I have come to running into or even over a car in a long, long time. Yes, I told my boss - Federal Regulations require me to do so, but I would have told me regardless of that. He's like - did it go through the cab? No, just a couple of very minor dents in the headache rack. No reports to fill out - the other semi's in our fleet have all kinds of dented racks from the same kind of thing happening to other drivers.

See? It's not just me. This stuff happens in inner-city driving to all truck drivers. People in cars, SUV's and whatever else simply don't realize the intensity of focus we have to give to keep from killing them every day because of THEIR actions that cause such things to happen. This hardly happens out on the open road. Just the way it is. An OTR driver has to go through cities, yes, but most of his/her time is spent on the open road. You may or may not see them experiencing such. A city-driver is going to have, actually, a much better sense of how to drive in-city than an OTR driver. Trust me - city driving is much more dangerous and full of perils than any OTR driver will ever experience. It's one of the reasons why many "local" driving positions require several years of driving experience to get a job with them. In smaller outfits, the owner of the company will actually get in the passenger seat and take you on a driving test before they will ever commit to giving you a job.

That was enough for one entry. The rest of the day was going downtown, delivering that pipe, then unexpected deliveries came up which I took out. Then a pickup in Tempe which came up at the last minute and I wasn't back to our yard until 12:30pm. That's an hour and a half from closing.

Tomorrow I have some stuff to do, too, which is good. Go to a pipe company, pick up a load of pipe and deliver it as well as delivering another order to another jobsite. This will consume most or all of the morning. Tomorrow is also "INVENTORY". Lol. Every 6 months, our company - by corporate mandate - requires each location to do an entire inventory count of all product. For the reason of overtime, I will not be participating in any of it. Well, my boss may have me helping count - more eyes on one product when there's a lot of it hopefully means an accurate count.

There is no Mary report today. When she came through the gate, I left the kitchen. I didn't want to hear it, I didn't want to talk to her.

Ken is in love. With a married woman. Ken is my other roommate. Geeeeeeeze.
I've seen this before and don't wonder - again - if I don't need to arm myself for any potential confrontations with that woman's husband if he finds out and comes over HERE looking for trouble. Sometimes I wonder why I have tenants - then I kick myself and remember that I don't have any choice - at the moment.
ben

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