Monday, December 13, 2010

I Just Thought I Had a Bad Day

Typical Monday. It was sixteen or so when I hooked up to the trailer/load assigned to me. When it's that cold, grease is stiff and things are brittle. I could have sworn I checked to see if my fifth wheel latched - one generally backs in, listens for the "clink," then try to pull forward. If it's latched, you won't go forward. Maybe I didn't. I sure had my window down to listen.

So, while putting the flags and signs on the load, I noticed an air leak between the front and middle axles of the triple axle I was to pull. Mmmmkay - I figured I might as well pull the whole shebang over to one of our shop doors to put it on concrete for our mechanic to check. I made it about fifty yards before the trailer fell off the tractor. Both my coiled plastic umbilical air lines broke. The electrical cord pulled out from both sockets and was resting on the side of the frame above the drive axles. One of our crane guys was right beside me, so he set up, swung his boom and chain over, and picked the front of the trailer up so I could hook up again, which I did. Two brand new air lines and an hour later, I was read to pull on over to have the valve checked - but it had quit leaking. Sometimes, when things are that cold, a little ice gets in a relief valve and it won't close. I suspect the jarring it took when I dropped the trailer might have had something to do with that.

So, an hour behind, away I went. I had two drops and got the first one done, and headed onto I76 from Sterling Colorado on my way to Evans (a suburb of Greeley). I needed to take US34 to Greeley, except this is what I saw at my exit.

It's a load of square alfalfa bales, with the tractor busy disintegrating. I'm assuming a brake locked and started the hay on fire, which started to come apart and really went to town on the tractor. The responder in the red pickup told me I would have to wait, because there was no way I could go on and get to 34.

I could hear the tires sigh as they burned open - the outer tires were gone and the inner ones were flaming merrily when I showed up. The responders moved several cars out of the way and back on to the interstate to get them away. I heard a super loud bang - not sure what it was. Diesel isn't normally explosive, and if a tank blew under pressure it would have a big burning puddle underneath, so I think I heard an air tank let go.

There was another exit within several hundred yards of the one I wanted - the fire department guy told me it took me into the little town on the wrong side of the interstate. I wasn't sure I believed him, so I was busy looking it up on my phone - and finding out he was wrong - when a state trooper showed up wanting me to back up and get out of there. He told me I would have no problem finding 34. I really needed to get out of there - the sun was getting low on the western horizon. In Colorado, we can slap on some battery powered blinking lights on the outermost edges of our load, plus use the flashing yellow beacons on the front and rear we all have on anyways, and travel at night. I wasn't sure my battery powered blinky lights have fresh enough batteries, so it was time to go.

I looked the rig over as I went by - the sleeper was gone, and the cab was settling into the frame. The front bales were still smoldering - the rural fire department was foaming things down, but it was seemingly ineffective on the tractor. They were also looking after some of the small fires in the grass - dry country like that, you don't want that to get away.

So, I beat the sunset - but didn't get my last two tanks off. Gotta do that in the morning. At least I've got a load and a tractor to pull it with. With new umbilical air lines.


MorningGlory said...

Wow. I looked at the pictures before I read the text and I thought that was you on fire. Glad it wasn't.

Jinglebob said...

There'll be a hot time in the ol' town tonight, comes to mind.

Cedar View Paint Horses said...

Hey, I did something similar with my pickup and GN recently, except my trailer never hit the ground. The tailgate stopped it.....DOH!

Lisa Paul said...

Whoa! Be careful out there.

Anonymous said...

Happens to the best of us! Thanks for reminding me to be gratefull. tb

jed said...

I got to watch I guy drive out from under his trailer this morning. Wasn't very dramatic, as the legs didn't collapse. What was more amusing was when the driver initially backed up to attempt to re-attach, without having first made sure the trailer was high enough. I guess he didn't realize that if the legs weren't dragging on the ground as he was pulling out and turning, then they were shorter than the height of his tractor. He realized his error when he backed into the side of the trailer, while his helper was yelling at him to stop.

Jeffro said...

jed: What saves our bacon in this kind of instance is that our loads are pretty light compared to a trailer loaded to the max. Probably the worst thing is the frame crossmember on the tractor behind the fifth wheel sometimes get bent by the trailer kingpin.

And yeah, when you've got the trailer legs dollied up, you're not gonna fit back under the trailer very well!