Truck Rollover = No Good

As you may or may not know I had an accident. A semi truck accident. On Friday July 20th at 4:15pm. My bachelor party was going to be that very next evening. I had just picked up my last load before 2 weeks of vacation. It was an entire truckload of poster-sized glossy paper.

This is not something you see everyday

I was making a left turn from one backwoods country road onto another backwoods country road when out of the corner of my eye I saw in my mirror my trailer tire leave the ground. I didn’t think this was possible since I wasn’t speeding or doing anything crazy. The next thing I thought was that possibly JUST the trailer could flip on its side leaving the truck upright, but that thought quickly left my head when I was whipped with such speed and force onto my side. I was left dangling in my seat still strapped in by my seat belt not knowing what the heck to think or do.

This photo is not a top-down shot

I sat there, (well actually hung there) for a few seconds wondering how in the world I was going to get out. My truck was on it’s right side and there was no way out. I couldn’t open the driver’s side door because it was too heavy. It was as if I was inside a submarine. Everything I owned was now thrown violently to the right side of the truck, which was now the floor. I quickly unbuckled my seat belt, not thinking of exactly what might happen, and WHOOPS, there I went, falling to the floor. See, a semi truck is like 8 feet wide or so and that means that I had to be hanging at least 7 feet in the air.

I managed to climb out through the sun roof, whose windows had so thoughtfully popped out allowing me to escape.

After removing myself from the truck, I went to call my company, but I realized that my phone and headset were still back where I had left them, on the dash. So I climbed back into the wreck and retrieved them and turned off the engine as well. I was so shaken up I don’t really know who I talked to or what was said, I do know that everyone at my company was overly calm and helpful. I think they’re taught to be like that during times like this.

In no time it seemed that there were police, trucks, wreckers and every other type of emergency vehicle. Well I guess not, because there wasn’t an ambulance. No one was hurt. No one needed medical attention (I did hurt my foot while falling when I was released from my seat belt, but I didn’t mention it).

What a spectacle

There were about 4 tow trucks that came out and one of them was the biggest one I have ever seen. It had a HUMONGOUS boom crane on it. It was needed to lift the trailer up since it was So full of paper. My load was about as heavy as you could legally carry. 43,000 lbs.

The firefighters were mostly concerned with what chemicals might be pouring into the ground. My company had to send out an independent environmental clean up crew to make sure that the EPA wasn’t called in making this an even bigger deal. The only thing that came out was a little engine fluids such as engine coolant and a little bit of oil. There was a small amount of diesel fuel that had leaked out of the tank when it had turned over, but the tank itself wasn’t damaged.

Now this whole time I was worried about whether I would be able to keep my job. I talked to the police officer and he said that it was mandatory that he give me a ticked. He wrote me up for what was called “Violation of Basic Speed Law”, which is the same thing they give to people who lose control on the ice or snow. It doesn’t mean I was speeding, but only that I was going too fast for conditions.

After he gave me this ticket, he then went on about how he didn’t actually think it was my fault at all. He pointed out that my skid marks left by the truck turning over were way too short, indicating that I wasn’t, in fact, going too fast at all.

The officer next reminded me that my trailer had on it what are called “super singles”. These are fat wide tired that take the place of dual side-by-side tires found on most trailers. While these type of tires to increase fuel economy, they are narrower than a pair of regular ones, and they are also inset from the side of the trailer making it just that much more unstable.

One more thing that the officer told me he believed lead to this accident was the shape of the road itself. The roads out in the country are crowned or dome-shaped to keep off the water and ice. When turning from one dome-shaped road onto another dome-shaped road, there will be a small valley created which will make something like a semi truck trailer dip and become unbalanced. That mixed with the load, which was loaded down the center of the truck and not the sides, shifting to that outside of the trailer would cause the truck to flip over. This was all out of the mouth of the officer. He said he was a member of the State of Michigan advanced accident detective something or other and it was his expert opinion based on these things I have mentioned, that it wasn’t my fault, and that if it hadn’t happened at this corner, it very well could have happened at the next turn I made down the road.

My phone steadily losing battery life during all of this and I lost the ability to take photos during the time when it would have been the most interesting, the actual re-flipping of the truck into it’s upright and correct position. I did manage to charge my phone on my laptop sitting in the corn field while this part took place. The real fear during all of this was wondering if they could actually be able to bring the truck upright without having to unload all the product that was on the trailer. If that had been the case, it probably would have taken hours and hours and hours before all of that paper was removed.

The trailer is back upright, but NOT looking good

The trailer was completely fine until they had to start lifting it to flip it back upright. This caused it to tear like a pop can and ended up completely totaling it. As for the truck itself, I can’t say for sure, but I don’t think there was too much damage beyond the hood and mirrors. It looks way worse than it actually was. I’m not sure how much of the product inside the trailer was salvaged or usable but it looked pretty bad.

After it was back on it’s wheels, they started to tow it back into town. This effort was very delicate because the actual frame of the trailer had been broken by the attempt to bring it back over. This meant the the “landing gear” (legs of the trailer used when the trailer is parked) was only inches from the ground and any more bending of the frame would mean that we couldn’t move it anymore. They had to use a super heavy-duty chain to keep it off the ground as it was.

My God, what a mess

After going for about a mile (at 10 MPH) they stopped and we turned back to see what had happened. (I was riding in another tow truck). It had happened, the frame had bent just enough where the landing gear was pressing against the ground stopping the truck and trailer from continuing down the road.

We then had to climb into the trailer in the middle of the road and spend 20 minutes moving very heavy stacks of paper from one side of the trailer to the other and to the rear to relocate some of the weight and hopefully it would allow the truck to start rolling again.

I wasn’t able to go home even after all of this. I then had to meet a woman that worked for the DOT and take a drug and alcohol test in the back office of some little pub in the town near where we were. Of course I passed, but it was all very annoying trying to track her down and find out where we could meet.

Ha! Paper coming through the side of the trailer

I finally got that done and taken care of at about 9:30pm and this whole time I had Andy, his bro Steve and my bro Ben on a wild goose-chase to come and get me (also important to note that they were on their way to see the new Harry Potter movie and Ben was NOT happy that he had to miss it).

I was first told that I could get a ride from the towing company up to Grand Rapids where I could retrieve my belongings from the wreck and be picked up there. But once they got the truck hooked up and ready to go, they told me that there weren’t going up to GR but to Kalamazoo instead, but by this time Andy and gang were already in GR waiting for me. I called them (with what little phone battery I had left) and managed to steer them towards the place in Kzoo where I was to be brought.

Since the truck was in danger of breaking more, the tow-truck pulling my truck had to continue at 10 MPH the entire way which took them about an hour and 1/2 to get there. Then, once there, the impound yard gave me a hard time, telling me I couldn’t get any of my stuff out of the truck without written permission from the owner of the truck. It was a total nightmare. By the time I got that all sorted out and, with help from the guys, collected what stuff I could fit in Andy’s full car, we managed to leave out of there at almost midnight.

After this great day, I was on vacation for 2 whole weeks. I had many people coming from out-of-town for the wedding and different people coming and going and staying and this and that. It was nonstop that whole next week. We went on a family/friends trip to Cedar Point where I discovered my new favorite roller coaster, The Maverick.

Then the wedding and everything that goes along with that came and went.

Then came a week of helping run the SPCYA (Simpson Park Camp Young Adults) program at camp. This took as much planning as did the wedding.

Monday came and I found out that due to this accident and what they’re calling my “previous safety record” that I no longer have a job. I find this slightly unfair and annoying and stupid all at the same time as I find it relieving and exciting. For years now I have been slowly hating that job more and more and I have always thought that my intelligence and talents were being wasted on driving a truck. While it does take a certain amount of skill, I personally believe that most anyone could do it with the right training. I am going to put a huge effort into building up my web and graphic design portfolio and try to pursue a career in that field. I have quite a few leads for freelance work but my ultimate goal at this juncture is to land a job that can get us benefits. If this plan doesn’t seem to work out then I’m quite positive that I will have no trouble returning to truck driving. As a last resort I will even consider going back “over the road” (long haul) if it is necessary to make ends meet.

I thank you all for your support and help through this new/exciting/scary time for us and just know that we are keeping a super-positive outlook on it and aren’t letting it get us down. This may be just what I needed in my life to steer it where I needed to go (pun intended).

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