Worst Trip in a Big Truck Yet

by TruckerMike

My last trip started in Loredo, TX and we were told to head to a town just south of Pittsburgh, PA. The trip started off with no problems. I drove through some very heavy traffic in Texas, but it was very good experience for me. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a pain to be in stop and go traffic for over 200 miles, but the weather for the most part was real good and it was an enjoyable drive once I got through the traffic.

The trip didn't get bad until I got to Virginia. It was dark out and there was some patchy fog and patchy rain, but nothing real dangerous. I was just cruising along listening to some tunes as my trainer slept, working my way up and down the hills. A car passed me on the left but it was very routine. However, as the car began passing the truck in front of me (about 200 yards in front), the car started to shimmy for no apparent reason. I cut off the cruise and got on the brakes early, expecting the worst. He ended up losing control, struck the rear tandems (trailer wheels) of the truck in front of me, then slammed into the guardrail on the left side. I was keeping enough distance to where I didn't need to brake real hard. The truck in front of me pulled over, and I pulled in front of him on the shoulder. Once it appeared everyone was ok, I continued on. We were in a big hurry to deliver our load, nobody was hurt, and there were other witnesses on scene. No need for us to stick around. I still have no idea why that car lost control. Very odd.

A couple hours later, I decided I needed to stop and use the restroom. I pulled into a busy rest stop where there was very limited parking. I figured I'd have to just stop on the shoulder of the on ramp and do my business at the side of the truck. However, I saw an open spot! Perfect! I got as far to the right as I could (parking spot was on my left), then began turning into the spot. I got the cab into the spot before I realized I wasn't going to make the turn and get the trailer in. I was going to hit the truck on my left if I kept moving forward. To make matters worse, I had about 3 trucks behind me, hollering on the CB, putting the pressure on. I didn't want to back up because I didn't know who was behind me and how close they were. Crap (I didn't really say crap)!!! I was stuck and blocking all the traffic behind me! My trainer sensed something was wrong and came up to the front. We switched seats real quick and he was able to work us out of the spot, then park in a new location. He wasn't mad at all. I apologized and he just said "that's what I'm here for!" But it really made me upset that I let that happen. I should know better by now. In the end, I guess it was a minor mistake as nothing got damaged except my ego. But I'm still not real happy about it.

After that incident, for some reason, I couldn't shift. I kept missing gears, forgetting which gear I was in, going to the wrong gear, etc. Just getting out of the rest stop was a chore. But we did make it onto the open road. Shortly after we got onto the road, I saw a fire truck merging onto the expressway behind me. The fog was getting thicker, but it was still patchy and didn't seem real dangerous. I let the fire truck pass me and kept my distance as I was sure something was going on up ahead. Boy was I right. I saw the fire truck slowing down in the left lane, and some big trucks in front of me turned their hazard signals on and were pulling onto the right shoulder. There was some pretty heavy fog at this point, so it was hard to see exactly what was going on. But I turned on my hazard signals and slowly moved over onto the right shoulder. Then I saw what the fuss was all about. In the opposite lanes, I saw 3 trucks tangled up, and one of them was on fire. All of the south-bound lanes were closed (we were going north) and there were emergency vehicles struggling to make it to the crash. In the end, 3 people died in this crash. I didn't realize it when we passed, but a car was smashed in the middle of all those trucks. Two people in the car died and the driver of the truck that was on fire died. You can read about it here.

This was my first experience with a major accident on the road. It makes it a whole lot harder seeing these trucks involved. After all, I'm out here driving one, just trying to make a living, same as the driver who died. In just one instant, his life was over, and the lives of the other drivers were drastically changed. Not to mention the poor 4-wheeler that got caught in the middle of that mess. Seeing that truck on fire will probably stick with me for a while. The strange thing is, I'm not really worried for myself. I worry more for my friends and family. I worry about what they'd have to go through if something ever happened to me. I honestly don't even like to think about it. But on the same token, people do things every single day that can potentially get them hurt or killed, usually without even realizing it. Crossing the street, driving to work and back, being outside during a thunderstorm, playing sports, boating, hiking, etc. We can't live our lives in fear. Bottom line is I really enjoy what I'm doing. All I can do is manage that fear and use it to my advantage. I don't know the full details of the accident, and some accidents are simply unavoidable, but I'm thinking speed and following distance probably played a big roll in this crash. The fog wasn't that bad. I'll probably never know for sure what exactly caused that crash. But regardless of who was at fault, it was very tragic. I know this is only the first of many bad accidents I'll see out here. I just hope I'm never involved in one like that.

After driving for about 10 hours, I finally made it to the receiver. Since this place had overnight parking, we were going to park there and deliver the next morning. It was a huge pain in the butt to get to. Very small, narrow streets with a ton of red lights. Luckily, since it was late at night, there was very little traffic. But getting there was a huge chore for me. I just wasn't on my game that day. My shifting was horrible. I was forgetting to select between low gear and high gear on the shifter, wasn't using the correct shift pattern, couldn't downshift, couldn't get into the gears right, and just overall my shifting flat out sucked. We finally made it, found ourselves a parking spot, and I backed it into a spot beautifully. At least I finished on a good note.

As I began filling out my logbook , I started cussing at myself for the incident that happened at the rest area and also my shifting. My trainer was quick to calm me down. I know these days are going to happen, but it's still a little frustrating for me. Since that day, I've had no problems, so it was just an off day for me.

This trip really wasn't that bad. It was just the combination of dealing with heavy traffic, dealing with two accidents,my poor parking experience, and my horrible shifting. I felt like I took a couple steps back. But since that trip, we came all the way from PA to CA. The entire trip out to CA was problem free. I'm back to my old self and the drive was beautiful. Just keep on truckin', as they say.

Until next time, drive safely!



A written or electronic record of a driver's duty status which must be maintained at all times. The driver records the amount of time spent driving, on-duty not driving, in the sleeper berth, or off duty. The enforcement of the Hours Of Service Rules (HOS) are based upon the entries put in a driver's logbook.


Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".


Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".


Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.


Operating While Intoxicated

by Brett Aquila

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