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Friday, October 18, 2013

The Evolution of Trucker Logic

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           The Evolution of Trucker Logic

      Trucker Logic is usually taught by some guy named Murphy.  It is most often learned the hard way.  If you are lucky it is at someone else’s expense and not yours.  Over the years I have had learning opportunities both ways.  Though I no longer drive my experience continues to expand.  Murphy never quits and is always ready to teach. Murphy’s lessons are seldom forgotten and often used as teaching models.  I heard Murphy mentioned often over the years.  The first couple times I saw him in action I was amazed at how something that should be routine can become a teaching experience.

      My first experience was in a lumber yard near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  It was early fall and cold.  Another driver and I were removing our tarps so the forklift could get at the load.  Our loads were covered with our companies eight foot boxed end tarps.  The corners were sewn to make them fit the load better.  Each tarp covered half the trailer.  Our company used rope ties on the tarps.  That is not usually a problem, but when they are wet and cold they can be very hard to untie. I was struggling with mine but my buddy got his undone quickly as he had bought his own rubber straps.

      When we entered the lumber yard we drove along the fence on our left and then turned and parked side by side with our back to the fence.  We left about twenty feet between the back of our trailers and the eight foot chain link fence so the fork lift could maneuver while unloading us.

      As I said my buddy was ahead of me and was on top of his load trying to get the tarp off the load.  It was windy and he grabbed some of the ropes that the company had permanently attached to the tarps and wrapped them around his hands.  He then whipped the tarp up to loosen it from the load.  At the same instance a gust of wind rushed under the tarp and lifted it clear of the load. The tarp snapped loudly and inflated and lifted much like a sail.  When I heard the popping sound I turned just in time to see my buddy who was standing on top of the lumber about twelve to fourteen feet in the air being lifted up.  He tried to let go but the ropes tangled and suddenly he was airborne.

     He resembled Mary Poppins as he sailed over the twenty foot open space and cleared the eight foot fence.  He finally landed about twenty feet the other side of the fence. He stood there and did not move.  I ran to the gate and back to him and he was still just standing there with the tarp ropes wrapped around his hands.  He seemed to be in a trance.  I think it may have been shock.  Anyhow once he regained his composure we rolled up the tarp and carried it back to his truck.  He said the landing was feather soft, but the whole thing freaked him out.  It taught me a lesson and I never wrapped the ropes around my hands when unloading.

      Some years later I got a refresher course in what can happen when material is flapping in the wind.  I now had my own truck and was eastbound on I-70 in Indiana near Greencastle.  The cars in front of me were swerving to the shoulder and into the left lane for no apparent reason.  Then suddenly I saw it.  It was a blanket lying in the middle of the right lane flapping around.  It was just a blanket what harm could it do. Evidently having forgotten the preceding story I decided to straddle the blanket.  As I said what could it hurt.

       I was about to find out it could hurt a lot.  The flapping blanket was snatched up buy my driveshaft and whipped around repeatedly.  The tail reached into my frame rails and somehow grabbed my air lines and snatched the completely out and tore them off.  I lost my air pressure suddenly and barely had time to get to the shoulder and out of traffic before my brakes locked up.  Fortunately I was near a truck stop with a shop. A towing bill and repairs came to about seven hundred dollars.  Getting it to the shop turned out to be pretty simple.  We backed off all the brakes and the mechanic slowly towed me to the shop less than a mile away.

      What I learned was that flapping things can be dangerous.  Like the truck that passes you with the loudly slapping casing that says he is about to pitch the treads off his tire. 

       Another time traveling westbound on I-40 just east of Knoxville at night a bread truck driver lost a complete pair of tandem wheels off the passenger side of his vehicle. The tires rolled along the shoulder for some distance before cutting between his vehicle and mine.  Then they travelled across the interstate before coming to rest on the south side shoulder.  They narrowly missed hitting some eastbound vehicles headon.  The ironic part is it took us almost three miles to convince the driver he had lost the tires.  He thought we were trying to pull a joke on him.

      The point I am trying to make is that things that seem harmless can suddenly become very dangerous in the right situation.  The blessing in all these stories is that no one was injured.  That was strictly by the Grace of God.  They all could have caused serious injury. My reason for sharing them is that they may help someone avoid a similar situation.

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