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Travels of a Trucker Learning the Hard Way

January 4, 2012

A truck driver’s life is never easy. Sometimes we have to BS our way into a job and our learning curve can be a straight shot into space. Many years ago, my learning curve was exactly that. An arrow that pointed straight up and it continued that way for my first few jobs. I never had it easy when it came to the life of trucking. My dad drove truck, my uncle drove truck, but they never taught me how to drive, they never taught me the skills required or the basics of driving so my position was that of a complete newbie when I started.

I had no Mountain experience, I had no driving experience, no Winter experience, no Black Ice experience, no Chain up experience and no Snow experience. Everything was thrust upon me in my first year as a huge learning curve. When I got my licence years ago, it was simply 3 lessons at the driving school and book my road test. Hell I couldn’t even drive a standard transmission car and to this day, I can drive a truck which is standard with 10, 13, 15 and 18 gears, but still don’t even know how to drive a standard transmission car. Why did I book my road test so quickly? Partly because I couldn’t afford to keep going to driving school at $400 per lesson. It was a do or die situation and my do passed. I made only one mistake on my pretrip inspection and I had close to near perfect on my driving test. But a driving test is no match when it comes to the driving test of Mother Nature.

My first job started out ok. It was early Summer and I had missed all the bad weather. Really I had nothing to bother me for a few months. So Summer passed, the Fall came and soon it was the season of Black Ice and Snow. I was driving for the first time in the Mountains, with no Winter experience even in a car and here I was pulling 75,000 pounds through the mountains. I was excited and eager and scared all at the same time. I was excited because I enjoying something new, I was also getting cocky, but the only problem was I was not prepared. No one had prepared me for a Mountain Winter. No one had coached me through driving on Ice. No one ever explained to me about not stepping on brakes while on Black Ice. There were so many things I just didn’t know.

So one morning, I awoke from Golden, BC. It was 4am and dark and Winter. It was clear with no falling snow, but the only problem being a new driver and not being aware was that the temperature outside was low enough that it made the road a sheet of ice. Off I went on my merry journey headed towards Moose Jaw to pick up a load of meat at World of Pork. I never made it that far. I did however make it as far as the third last curve before Field, BC going Eastwards before I found myself inside a 30 or 40 foot Ravine. How did this happen? I had been driving along quite happy. Not a care in the world as I drove. Why should I worry? I didn’t know anything about Black Ice! As I rounded a corner, my truck and trailer started sliding horribly. I could feel my truck sliding and I made the worst mistake and only mistake that is normally taught by other drivers to rookies not to do! I rammed on my brakes. Well the trailer flipped around in a slow motion 180 degree spin and just like one of those rides at the PNE it got faster in a real hurry pulling the tractor with it in a whiplike fashion. It pulled me backwards into a Ravine and I remember the bumps, I remember all I could see was the light reflecting off the snow and trees as I went backwards. I had no clue where I was, or how far I had dropped. I knew I was alive still, I had my seat belt on and it was a good thing after looking at the back of the cab and finding everything had whipped around in the back including breaking the seat belt which kept the upper bunk tied into place in an upright position.

There are a few drivers reading this who will know the area exactly which I mean. Before you come into Field, it comes into a corner and drops down a straight stretch coming into a Right handed Curve. My accident was just after that left handed curve and just going into the straight stretch which drops and on the left there is a big ravine. On the right it is shored up with Cement Barriers. You can just see the lights in the dark of Field from that junction.

I was lucky really. I was lucky that I am here to talk about what happened. All it would have taken is a tree to come through the cab of the truck. A spark to ignite my fuel. The trailer to come jack-knifing over the truck. Any number of possibilities or scenarios that I would not be sitting here today had they occurred.

Today of course, I am older, I am wiser, I am more experienced which taken into account still means nothing except that I am more prepared in these situations and my reactions are far more different now. When it comes to Mother Nature, we can never be fully prepared because she will remind you in a heartbeat who is in control real quick. Just take a look at any of the following examples and you will understand what I mean when I say this…the Tsunami in Japan, the Pemberton Ski Patroller who was just killed in an Avalanche less than 5 days ago (and he was an expert). Nowadays, they also have training programs like the Mountain Driving Training Institute which is based out of Castlegar. These programs are based in the Mountains and teach driving in the Mountains. Something which I could have benefited from in my day and age. So the point of my article today is don;t sell yourself short. Don;t cut corners and become cocky like I did. It only takes an instant. A quick mistake to learn your failure, but that mistake could be catastrophic for you or loved ones. I was lucky that day. Everyone else was also lucky that day that no one had been driving near me and the highway was quite empty. Had someone been near me when this happened, the results could have also been much worse. So please I urge you that when you are doing something for the first time to always learn as much as you can.

So again dear readers, thanks for reading Travels of a Trucker and if you like my short little stories, feel free to join by email. If you want you can also follow me on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/#!/truckerofbc or you can follow me on my Facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Travels-of-a-Trucker/256861804368734

As always, drive safe and keep em Sunny side up. If you are a sponsor looking to have a product tried, tested or promoted, please write me here rogerdsims2002@yahoo.ca

 

**Tip of the day

When driving and you see 2 pilot vehicles with lights flashing make sure you watch for a wide load imposing into your lane. 2 Pilot vehicles in front of a wide load in BC represent a significant hazard if the road is narrow and the load may be in the lane of oncoming traffic. 2 Pilot lead loads usually travel between the hours of 12am-5am when it is at it’s darkest. Please be aware**

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