|The Cut River Bridge|
From our vantage a hundred feet or so above the lake, the rippling waves danced in the moonlight like a thousand shards of a shattered mirror. The gentle summer breeze whispered through the lush green trees that looked black against the bright reflected light of moon. Most of the guys were awed into silence as we stood in the gravel parking lot … and I heard a strange crunching sound.
Without an actual thought coagulating in my brain, I suddenly spun around to see my truck slowly rolling toward the ravine. The only thing between it and the bottom of the ravine was one of those almost-oval-shaped ‘landscape timber’ boards the DOT had haphazardly laid around the perimeter of the gravel. I walked back to my truck, which I had locked for some reason, unlocked the door and stepped on the parking brake. The scrunching noise of the brake broke everyone’s bliss and caused them to turn around. There I stood one foot on the ground and the other standing on the brake of my truck. I never heard the end of that for the rest of the weekend.
Well, I just did it again! I can’t believe that this has happened after more than a million miles on the road and countless – literally thousands – times climbing out of a truck. I had dropped an empty trailer and hooked to a load of CHEP pallets. I only had to roll over to the office, collect the paperwork and I’d be on my way. Simple enough.
I backed into an empty spot near the office, but my trailer was a little close to another tractor so I pulled back out, straightened up, and backed in. There were no lines, no parking spaces there, but a “real” truckdriver leaves his rig straight and square to the world around it. I grabbed my notebook and a mask, and climbed out of the truck.
As I stepped away, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a wheel turning; the lugs on the wheel were just barely moving. They shouldn’t be moving! Downhill from me was a bunch of other trucks backed into docks, getting unloaded. I couldn’t stop to think about that. I couldn’t stop to think about the fact that I had locked the door. I just started moving.
I walked back around the front of the truck; set my notebook and mask on the top step; reached into my pocket for the keys as the truck gradually rolled faster; shuffle stepped to the left as I unlocked the door; opened the door; climbed the steps; leaned in to reach for the air brake knobs and yanked the yellow one. The yellow knob controls the truck brakes, and will set off the trailer brakes too. Truck brakes are controlled by air and the system had to evacuate for the brakes to engage. The air spilled out of the brake system in a familiar hiss as the truck rolled another eight or ten feet toward the other trucks. The brakes finally grabbed as the last of the air escaped and the truck stopped -- with about twelve feet to spare. I had crab-walked next to the rolling truck for sixty or more feet.
It was only then that my heart started to race. What a morning that would have been. My truck was aimed toward the trucks getting unloaded at the docks. Most of those drivers were likely sleeping, waiting for a phone call to tell them they were empty. A lot of those trucks are owner/operators; guys who own their own trucks, buy their own insurance, pay their own repairs.
I’ve forgot the brakes before; probably many times. However, as soon as I took my foot off the brake pedal and could feel the “looseness” of the truck, I pulled the brakes. Most honest truckers would admit the same. To take my foot off the brake and climb out of the truck without being mindful of that looseness and to have walked across the front of the truck toward the office not knowing, is unbelievable. Distracted parking? The parking lot didn’t look like it had much contour to it, but my truck rolled downhill right at the building and those trucks. I likely would have been fired over that. Amazing that I was so stupid. Amazing that I got away with it.
Do I have to say it again: “I’d rather be lucky than good.”
Image by Gittensj
Image by Gittensj