A Little Smack-Down From Mother Nature…

Oh, what excitement-filled days I have had since we last “talked!”

First truck driving job, new truck & trailer, and first load…  And driving unknowingly into the very bowels of Hades…

Well, that’s an exaggeration.  But not by much.

When last I blogged, on Saturday night, I was snug as a bug, well, you know, in a motel getting ready to slip into Denver ahead of the storm that was blowing in on Sunday.  Well, it wasn’t just blowing in, as it turns out, it was careening in at a high speed (quite a lot faster than forecasted, I might add) on a collision course with, you got it, moi.  (Yes, I know that’s French)

Anyhoo, as much as I hate to blog bad news, I had a little smack-down from Mother Nature right out of the box.  Yep, she put me right in my place, alright.

This is how it shook down, in the interest of that full disclosure I seem to like for some stupid reason.  Actually I wasn’t going to blog about this at all since my pride was the only real casualty, but then it occurred to me that it might help someone else avoid having a similar experience, and might be cathartic for me to just go ahead and fess up and get it out in the open.

Especially after being such a Pollyanna about driving and snow… The truth is that bad weather is dangerous and can, and does, kill people.  Thankfully I dodged that particular bullet… But it did a number on my truck and trailer.  The cargo never moved a centimeter, thanks to BB helping me tie it down right to start with, and was entirely undamaged.











I was going along just fine minding my own beeswax when I started seeing those little snowflakes, you know the ones, dry, light, don’t even stick to the windshield.  After over 30 years of mountain and heavy winter driving I wasn’t worried, just started being aware of the way the road felt and paying more attention.

Well, within one mile of road, I found it went from dry pavement directly to ice.  So I slowed her down to about 25 and just poked along, no problem.  Then I started feeling the ice under the truck and slowed down some more.  No brake, just a little less accelerator.  And then I was on a bridge.

Those signs about watching for ice on bridges are no joke folks, they really do mean what they say just in case you wondered…

That’s when Mom Nature stuck out her finger and gave the back of the trailer just the tiniest little push.  And it jackknifed on me.  Very slowly, and very softly.  It wasn’t like a huge dramatic moment.  I tried steering into the skid since I already knew there was no regaining any traction, I mean, I was sort of skating.

And just like they taught us at school, the best way to handle a skid is to avoid it.  I can confirm wholeheartedly that this is the honest truth.

So I went, “Oh no…” out loud even, and braced myself for the  impact I knew was coming as the trailer slid right on around and smucked my side of the truck.

(Funny, I always thought I’d go, “Oh S**t!” if every I was in a really bad situation like that.  My internal censor must have been on duty.)

And I was stunned at how softly the impact occurred.  It wasn’t a huge booming crash, just a little fluffy smack. Remember, this was a very low speed crash, probably between 15-20 miles an hour by the time I hit the ice.

Thankfully, God was watching and stuck a guardrail in just the right place along the inside edge of the fast lane which caught me by the front passenger side bumper and kept me from being pushed into the median and rolling into the median or the creek just beyond it. Yes, I skidded across both lanes and landed with truck facing southeast and trailer pointing east by northeast.  And thankfully, with all of the wheels still pointed in the correct earthly direction.

So I think that guardrail being right there to catch me is proof positive that God trumps Mother Nature.  He does in my book anyway.

The scariest part of the whole thing was after I stopped, and fully understood that I had just wrecked my brand new rig, I looked down the road behind me (I was facing in that direction anyhow) and saw two semis coming right at me.

I can only attribute moving extremely fast and grabbing my cell on the way out of the cab to reflexes instilled in me by my former police training.  Turns out I can still make a quick vehicle exit when I need to and jump a guardrail pretty well for an old gal when I’m really scared.

I didn’t think about it, just unbuckled, grabbed my cell, and bailed out.  All I could think was those trucks were going to hit my truck, and I needed to be as far away from the site of impact as I could get before they did!

As it turns out, they were able to stop in time and neither I nor the truck suffered any big rig tire tracks rolling over us.  My pride is entirely another matter.

The moral of this story is… well, there really isn’t one.  Maybe there is though.  I guess no matter how used to driving on crappy snowy and icy roads you are, anything can happen out there at the very moment you least expect it.  It sure did to me.

As far as the damage done, with the help of the trooper who responded to the scene, I managed to back the truck out of the jackknife, got my load delivered on time, and limped home with the trailer.  The neck of the trailer is in the shop at the yard as I type waiting for a new front post (it broke it’s neck, poor thing) the ball on the bed broke free of the weld* and has to be repaired, and the truck needs a new back door.

(Note added 01/13- We found out the welding had never been done to reinforce and stabilize the hitch ball connection.  The company that installed the bed said they welded the ball but never got around to it apparently…..and the nut and washer holding it came loose.)

I have to admit I was pretty well scared to death, and the rest of the drive was done with a pounding heart and shaking hands until I was back south and on dry pavement yesterday.  I analyzed the whole thing start to finish ten thousand times in my head and have to say that there was nothing much I could have done to prevent crashing aside from stopping before I got to the ice, so beating myself up over it is pointless.

Some days things just happen that way.  And it sucks.

But I’m uninjured and alive to tell the tale, and will have another load going out when the trailer repair is finished this weekend.  Oh, and the nice trooper who responded out to the scene was nice enough to send me on my way without a ticket.

So even the worst days sometimes get evened out by the good things that happen once the bad ones are over with.

Anyway, that’s the end of this tale.  I hope this is the closest anyone out there gets to riding out a jackknife.  Reading about it is a whole lot better than doing it, so don’t try this at home!


5 thoughts on “A Little Smack-Down From Mother Nature…

  1. Now when I said you’d have stories I didn’t expect ones like this. Glad everything worked out and most importantly, you weren’t injured. Well, perhaps your pride was tarnished a bit. Based on your post, you’ve just brushed it off and told it as it happened. Many would have probably just buried this one.
    Funny, I don’t mind driving in rain, even like it when it pours, but when it comes to the few times I driven in snowy condition, it just freaks me out. I just don’t like the disconnection from the road.
    Hope your truck is repaired good!

  2. Yep, I didn’t think I’d have a story like that either! I’m going to do my best to make sure it’s the last tale of woe from the road 🙂

    I honestly thought about not blogging on it, but then again, I feel better that I did. Everyone has bad days out there and to not talk about it would just leave me simmering over it which is no good.

    I can sure say I’ll be even more careful from now on! And I won’t be afraid to stop if it gets bad enough to ice over either! BB’s on a quest to find me a new door, so it shouldn’t be too long before the truck is feeling better too.

  3. Glad you’re okay! (I wondered if you’d fared well in the storm)…

    Writing it out is probably the best thing you could do…

    And yes, the trailer and truck will be fine… definitely a better result than it might’ve been!

  4. For what it’s worth,
    Is there a brake setting (specifically for the trailer) which can be applied, either from the cab or manually. In other words, setting it to apply more or less brake force for various conditions? I’ve heard of these setups with large boat trailers. You might want to check in to it.
    I’m sure you did everything correctly and probably didn’t apply the brakes when this happened but my thought is if the brakes were applied and there was too much braking on the trailer it might have caused the trailor wheels to lock. Isn’t there a ratio of braking power between the tracker and the trailor for different driving conditions?

  5. Thanks Kath,

    Yep, it’s all fixed now except for the door. And I found out that this may have been caused by the company that installed the flatbed. They were supposed to, and said they had, welded the hitch ball on the truck. Well, they didn’t.

    If it was already loosening up, as I think it was, (when I got back we saw that it was very loose which is not what it is supposed to be at all!) that would explain why the trailer went sideways on me if the ball was moving when I started slowing down as the play in the ball could have let the trailer push up on the truck instead of staying with it at the same speed. (Trailers jackknife when the trailer speed exceeds the tow vehicle speed.)

    You can bet they’re going to hear from me. It’s a wonder that ball didn’t come completely out causing the trailer to break free from the truck. I’ll tell you, I am one angry woman right now and want to seriously smack someone… namely the lazy jerk who thought it was ok not to weld that ball.

    And Joe, yes, I have a brake controller but never touched the brakes as I was on ice. (30 years + of ice driving has that instilled in me 🙂 )

    It was set but until the brakes are activated it isn’t sending anything to the trailer brakes. But definitely, if I had been braking, or if I had the engine brake on those both could have made it jackknife.

    The ratio is pretty much one you set by testing the brakes and making sure that the trailer brakes work in conjunction with the truck brakes evenly. And it helps to be watching that and adjusting it as needed.

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