Last Monday night, I was 2 hours from home on a four lane state highway through the mountains of Virginia.  Up ahead, I saw headlights on my side of the road coming my way.  It was a heavily wooded median so I knew the lights that I saw were in my travel lanes. 

This is how my mind processed the information my eyes were seeing in about one second.

  1. I questioned myself, "am I on a two lane or a four lane road?"
  2. "I'm on a four lane so that may be a cop trying to take a quick short cut."
  3. "It's a bunch of teenagers goofing off and playing chicken."
  4. "It's a drunk driver or someone having a medical emergency."

As the vehicle got closer, I could see he was in my left lane (his right lane) and I pulled over as far to the right as I could, slowing down as much as possible.  I flipped my lights to high beam and he started to swerve over at me as if he was trying to hit me head on.  He made contact with my tractor at the drive axles, just missing the fuel tank by a couple of feet.  His pickup truck continued to make contact with my step deck trailer all the way down before he hit the guard rail behind me.  After the sparks settled, the pickup driver had broken all four of my outside wheels and busted all my outside tires from the tractor drives to the rear of the trailer.  Along the trip to the rear of the trailer, he damaged my toolbox, rub rails of the trailer as well as cut 3 straps that were securing the load of paving stones.  Fortunately, the load was not damaged. 

The pickup driver was charged with DUI and arrested at the scene

As I review the crash in my mind, I don't think I'd do anything differently.  I also believe that this was a decent outcome considering there were about 4 vehicles behind me at the time of the crash.  A head on collision with any one of them would've probably been fatal.

After the crash, my loaded trailer had to sit by the highway all night.  I was able to remove the two outside tires on my tractor and bobtail to a small fuel stop that night in order to get off the road.  My vehicle couldn't be towed as it was loaded and had four broken wheels and four flat tires. 

I was prepared.

  • I had emergency food and water in the truck which was good because I was stuck there all night and store was closed.
  • I had extra cargo straps to secure the load because three of them were damaged in crash.
  • I contacted the broker to let her know about wreck and that I would miss appointment.
  • I had a good flashlight and reflective clothing on hand

The bottom line is that we don't know what's coming around the next curve.  Our date to meet the Creator can come in as quickly as a sudden wind so we must always do everything we can to be safe.  Unfortunately not everyone is doing their part.

Comments (8)

Joey Slaughter

Joey Slaughter is the owner of Blue Ridge Transport, LLC. Joey has been in the trucking industry since 1992.

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Thanks Shane and Craig. The former ATA chairman was working on that very issue concerning CSA points. Time to find out if he made any progress.

April 20, 2015 11:35:19 AM

Glad you are ok Joey! Sorry for the damage to your truck and trailer which will cause down time. It really burns me that CSA points could be added to a carrier score when nothing was their fault. It's one of the several problems with CSA that FMCSA doesn't seem interested in fixing. This is where OOIDA and your congress person come into play.

April 20, 2015 9:17:41 AM

Wow Joey! Glad to hear everyone was ok! I think Linda was referring to the fact that CSA points are still being added to a drivers/carriers scores for just being involved in the accident regardless of fault.

April 19, 2015 19:30:17 PM

You're right Joel. The tireman had to cut my wheel with a metal saw in order to get to the lugs. A van or reefer would've been damaged a lot more.

April 19, 2015 8:44:25 AM

Linda, why would I get CSA points? I did nothing wrong. Very interesting statistics Shelby. I never gave wrong way drivers any thought until this happened. I googled "wrong way driving" and a lot of disturbing articles came up. They mostly ended in death.

April 19, 2015 8:39:48 AM

With duals on the tractor you were able to pull the tires off the damaged wheels and leave the scene. Looks like getting to the lug nuts to replace the wheels was a challenge also. Fortunate you pull a step deck, a flatbed or van and the pick up could have been into the main frame instead of scrapping the side rail.

April 19, 2015 8:39:38 AM

Glad you came out unscathed, wheels and straps can be replaced. Good defensive driving, one can never just sit back and ignore what is going on further ahead than the end of the hood. The stastics show that the vast majority of these wrong way drivers are in your left lane, good to not be a left lane driver, four wheeler or CMV, bad habit.

Shelby

April 19, 2015 8:23:55 AM

Joey what is the pits is that you will probably get CSA points from this. Sounds like you did the right things.

April 19, 2015 8:16:48 AM