Some days you just know it is going to be a bad day. Today was one of them. Its the last of November and there is all sorts of weather heading our way. The first thing I get to do is find a empty trailer so I can do my assignment.
I find one at one of our customer's and as usual the empty trailer is parked in the corner of the lot where it is always under water and in lots of mud – deep mud. I am not a happy person. If you are wondering how I know the trailer is empty it is because the doors are left open after it is unloaded. I can't find the shuttle people to move this trailer for me so I am going to have to do it myself. I found some lumber and I used it to "walk on water". From the landing gear/crank handle to the rear of the trailer was all that was under water. The trailer ahead of the landing gear was out of water - the part that rests on your tractor's 5th wheel. So why could this trailer not be dropped FORWARD about 3 feet and put on dry ground? I get all hooked up and leave at 7:45 a.m.
It is 2 hours and 20 minutes to Muskogee, Oklahoma to get my load to bring it back to Rogers, Arkansas. I am in a day cab (no sleeper) so this means I have a lighter truck and it will be more of a challenge to my driving skills with the wind and weather coming in. I drive in rain and drizzle to the first Tahlequah, OK exit on 412. From that point on, ice was accumulating and sticking to the signs and other fixed objects, but it was not sticking to the pavement or the backs of my mirrors. There is still spray from the tires and that is what I am watching for.
Not far from this point are the toll booths and then it really got icy. No more spray from the tires. I am now doing 45 mph. Just past the toll booths is a plaza and I pulled in there. I use the company cell phone and called one of the drivers who was ahead of me (there are 6 of us on this assignment) This driver is not too far ahead of me and the report is not good. They are going about 35 mph and having problems. I'm warned to be extra careful, especially in that daycab. A couple of policemen pulled in to the oasis and I and some more truckers asked about the conditions west of here. They confirmed the bad report, and no one needs to be out in it. I turn on my power-divider. This is like 4-wheel drive on your personal vehicle. Yes, trucks have them.
I head westbound and keep it at 35 mph just like I did in a snowplow and put those snowplowing skills to work in the semi. The whole key to being safe is to drive according to conditions and get off the road when it is just so bad with blowing snow and blizzard-like conditions you normally see in the northern states. I drive from normal wet pavement conditions, to tire track paths, to ice covered roads and a mixture of the three for the rest of the trip. When I finally make it to US 69, I stop at the top of the ramp and creep down and around it and did not do any sliding. Again the whole key is SPEED, or lack thereof, to stay safe. It is really sleeting now and the roads are packed with this mess. Defrosters are on high to keep the windshield clear. Wipers are doing a great job and are not covered with ice/sleet/snow where I have to stop and clear them off, but I know that is also coming.
About the only vehicles on the road now are us truckers. I went about 2 miles from the ramp and find a 18-wheeler off in the west ditch and on its left side, trailer ripped open and its contents scattered. I pull into the Muskogee shipper at 11:15—a 3 1/2 hour drive for this trip and not the normal 2hr 20min run. I sign in, back into the dock and get my load rather quickly as this plant is shutting down at 3 due to the weather that is still coming in later in the day. I pull out of the dock, shut the doors and get my papers and I leave at noon. Now its foggy with sleet and snow. I had to stop 3 times to clean the wipers. This is also very dangerous to clean them when your truck is covered in ice. I am able to drive 40.
The curves and ramps and hills were the "fun" part. I could feel that trailer start to slide. Not much weight in the trailer when you carry empty bottles. I ran into a pocket of snow and there was a large stretch of road where you saw zero pavement. Was just a guessing game to stay on the road—just like being in a snowplow again. That's when you look for signs of the edge of the road and ditch to get your bearings. When I got near the Oasis again, I could go almost 50 mph. With all the ice on the truck, some of the pieces would break off and hit the windshield and the wipers, which would then break the ice on the wipers. The trip home was much faster as I got back at 3 pm. I had a test of skills today with rain, sleet, fog, ice and snow and even sunshine when I got closer to home. Been a long time since I had that much weather in one day. My nerves are shot. Glad to be home.