I recently wrote about an experience I had shortly after I first started driving, where the steering on my truck broke while I was cruising down the highway at 63 mph. As truck drivers, that is something we all fear will happen and hope that it never will.
I had done everything right. I did a thorough pre-trip inspection, was obeying the speed limit and was being cautious. It still happened though, and my truck and I took a ride down an embankment. I survived free of injury but my rig was totaled. That very short "detour" taught me a few things and I would like to share them
Secure Your Property in the Bunk
The ride down that embankment was pretty short. Before I went down the embankment though, I hit the side of the bridge twice. Those hits were pretty hard and I am sure they shook some stuff loose. As I was I headed down towards the entrance ramp I started to hear things hit the floor of the bunk. This included the TV/DVD Combo I had recently purchased. That came down HARD even though it was strapped into the shelf. Everything in the drawer in the bunk came out and landed on the floor as well. My cell phone went flying around the cab of the truck. Many of these objects could have injured myself or a passenger. Anything sitting on the bunk or on the floor could have also become a projectile. As bad as this was, it could have been even worse if I hadn’t taken the time strap down as much as I could before my trip.
Pay Attention to Your Truck
If there is something going on, it will tell you. Whether it is a sound that it doesn't usually make or a smell that is unusual, these are indications something may be going wrong. To this day, once in a while when I get caught in the ruts of the road, I will find a place to safely pull over and check things out. I am not taking for granted, it is just the road.
Do a Thorough Pre-trip Inspection, Always
I did a thorough pre-trip inspection before I took off that morning. The Pitman Arm just decided it didn't want to stay attached anymore. I was reassured that there was nothing I could have done or seen to prevent it, but I am not taking chances. Give your suspension a super close inspection. I teach all my students to grab the steering column and twist it, watching the suspension to make sure nothing is loose and everything is working as it should. Doing this actually saved one of my trainees from a potentially disastrous situation. It may have even saved his life, or the life of someone in the motoring public.
Learn to Control What You Can Control
This is more philosophical, but the accident has changed the type of truck driver I strive to be. I can't control a whole lot out here. Traffic, weather, wait times at shippers and receivers, dangerous drivers...all of these things are out of my control. All I can do is control how I react to them. I still get impatient in traffic. I still get angry at that driver that cuts over in front of me. I still get frustrated when traffic comes to a halt for an accident on the other side of the highway. It takes patience and patience takes practice. Don't let those situations change how you safely operate your truck.
My son Jack was still a few months from being born. I was thankful I didn't orphan him and the other kids. I was thankful nobody else was involved in the accident. I was thankful that the truck stayed upright. I was also thankful for something much less important.
It is strange what goes through your mind in times of stress. That TV/DVD combo that hit the floor was a recent purchase. I was still financially recovering from the change of career. That $130 was a lot of money to me at that time. When everything stopped moving and I knew I was OK, and nobody else was involved, the first thing I did was plug that thing back in to see if it still worked. IT DID!
So learn to control what you can and be patient. You never know what good can come out of a bad situation...even if it is just as simple as your TV still working.