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Truck Driver Winter Horror Story

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The winter is unrelenting. It seems to be worse this year than it has been for a long time, especially in the northeast. Every week there is a new, record breaking storm. You may know that we own trucks that run a route between Florida and upstate New York. Here is what happened a couple weeks ago during one of those storms.

Our driver, Rick, was in Syracuse NY. He had just purchased a new truck, a Kenworth, the day before. A beautiful, shiny specimen; elegance inside and refinement outside, luxury for the working man. A massive, powerful behemoth that could withstand anything and conquer all challenges. The kind of truck that other truck drivers ask about at the truck stop. He was very happy with it.

He had two cars to pick up in Syracuse and two more to pick up in Scranton (about two hours south of Syracuse). I called the customers the day before to let them know when their cars would be picked up. The first car in east Syracuse would be picked up around 10am, the second car in west Syracuse would be picked up around 11am, and the cars in Scranton would be picked up around 2pm. The last two cars were owned by one family, they lived about 3 hours from Scranton and decided to meet the driver to save money.

There were reports of snow the night before but the next day was worse than anyone expected. I’m not sure of the exact number, but by morning over a foot of snow had fallen and it did not look like it would yield any time soon. Roads were slick, vision was negligible, and Rick had to go. I called everyone to inform them of possible delays and he got to work.

In these conditions getting a truck into a neighborhood is a dream (or nightmare depending on who you ask). It’s not going to happen. The first pick up was uneventful, even easy. The customer met the driver at the agreed upon location and had his car loaded quickly, the second car was when problems began. Rick agreed on a spot to meet but, when he arrived the lot was covered in snow. This is an issue because any cement curbs in the parking lot are invisible and could cause damage to the truck. Unfortunately no other place in sight was clean so, very cautiously, he inched his way into the parking lot and found an area to stop in. In the winter two things slow the loading process, the cold makes the ramps very sluggish because of semi-frozen hydraulic fluid and the ramps get covered in ice causing car to slip when driving them onto the trailer. Both were in effect at this time, especially the latter. The Mustang he was trying to load would not drive up the ramps (the car is rear-wheel drive). Options are limited in this situation, if you rush onto the ramps (because the car is low) the front bumper would break and if you go too slow the tires will spin out and could rip. Like most of life’s problems, the answer was cat litter. It was an hour and a half before the car was secured, 12:30pm.

I told our customers in Scranton that there would be delays. I told them, “Come at 4 or even 5, I would rather have the truck wait for you than you wait on the truck.” Unfortunately they did not listen. They left promptly at 12. I called at 12:30 to say the driver was on the way and it would take about 3 hours to make the 2 hour journey. Great, they would be waiting 30 minutes at the most, no sweat.

But then 30 minutes after he left Rick had to stop. The interstate going south from Syracuse to Scranton had bumper to bumper traffic. A semi turned over in the road and blocked all of the lanes, the police were telling everyone to turn around. For a regular vehicle this means you need to find another way, for a truck (in this area) it means go find somewhere to stop until the road is clear. I called our Scranton customers and told them to expect at least another hour of delays, our new ETA was about 4:30. They were happy and said they would go eat somewhere in the meantime. The road took three hours to clear.

4 o’clock, finally, at long last, the truck is allowed to move; new ETA, 7pm.

Half an hour later there is another pileup. If you are not comfortable driving in snow, if you do not have the means to properly prepare your car for the icy roads, please, stay home during bad weather. You are asking, begging, pleading for an accident. 2 more hours lost.

6:30. Driving again. ETA – 8:30pm.

At this point it was dark and the snow was picking up. Rick said he only saw two other vehicles on the road the entire 60 miles he drove from Binghamton to Scranton. With visibility and road conditions so horrendous the maximum speed he dared drive was 30 miles an hour. Under normal circumstances we would shut down everything and wait until the next day but these people had driven 3 hours and waited another 3 and a half hours for us and had to fly out the next day, we had to pick the cars up that night.

By the time the truck stop where Rick was meeting the customers at was in sight it was 9:30pm. The entrance to the truck stop was an incline about a thousand feet long and it was covered in ice like everything else, not ideal for Rick. If he stops on this hill the truck will start sliding back. He starts up the hill, the tires are spinning out a little but he gets to the top. And, right as he reaches the top, another truck (a pick-up not a semi) is exiting. I suppose he thought no one would be entering at that time of night in that weather and wasn’t worried about stopping because he was driving very quickly. The pick up sees the truck, slams on the brakes, and slides right into the front left fender of Rick’s new baby. The damage wasn’t critical (luckily). Rick winced, cringed, and flinched. But he got the pick up driver’s insurance information in less than a minute according to him and went to hastily pick up the cars he had waiting for him.

He didn’t load anything that night. He parked the cars next to the truck and went to sleep. The next morning wasn’t so good either but at least he could see. I always feel bad when I think about those people. Waiting six and a half hours through a storm for a truck that keeps on getting delayed (plus driving home another 3 hours). If only they had waited half an hour more before leaving, they would’ve saved themselves at least three hours. And I always feel bad for Rick when I think about this too. His brand new truck (that has yet to be fixed) and the awful time he must have had driving that night. It really tires you out, you have to be on full alert at all times. It’s an entertaining story now but it was an awful exprience for all parties involved at the time.

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One Comment

  1. Jaypan says:

    Incredibly awful. I thought driving a transport was complicated but it seems completely awful in the winter time.

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