So what did I do?
You don’t even remember where I left off last time do you. You haven’t been paying attention to me for ages have you? I know, I know, I lost you upon mention of the vanilla slices did I? Not really surprising it’s extremely hard to get past a good snot block.
Anyway lets stop obsessing over that and get back to the story at hand. We were heading down the single lane stretch of highway between St. Arnuld and Kenwood and I was watching for a driver in a silver Commodore who had blown past Pete, at speed, almost as if he hadn’t seen the flashing lights or the big F-Series ute riding the white line in the middle of the road.
As you can guess I didn’t have to look out for long because the speeding, ignorant…motorist made the kilometre distance between Pete and myself quite quickly.
Now I could see him coming at me in his own lane and moving fast but whether he could see me I had no idea. There was also very little I could do, I couldn’t run into him, obviously, I couldn’t swerve onto the dirt and allow him to pass, I couldn’t even stop and let the guy go around.
The first thing I did was back off the accelerator. From seventy kilometres per hour I was never going to stop the truck in the time it took the Commodore to reach me but I could make the impact less.
Believe it or not braking or decelerating is not always the first reaction for a truck driver. I know the animal rights morons and PETA get all pissy with me for saying it but sometimes, many times really, for a truck driver it is easier and safer to hit the obstacle on the road rather than brake or swerve to avoid it. No one wants to hit animals and if you have ever known someone that has hit and killed another person on the road you will know there isn’t a person in their right mind that would want to do that. But considering on the sides of most roads are trees or other such things and the certainty of death is extremely high surely you understand why swerving is not the first reaction of many professional drivers, especially in the regional areas.
So I called to tell Corey that I was backing off, although he would have heard the conversation between myself and Pete I still called him to let him know of my exact actions. Partly I let him know because he couldn’t see what was going on around the big box on the trailer but mainly because his truck was pushing this load I was pulling and if I backed off not only would he start pushing me against the power of my truck slowing but there was the potential to damage anything from the bar the connected us together to the trucks.
I pulled left, not sharply and not far enough for the drive bogies to leave the bitumen, two bogies on the left hand side of the load were in the dirt but there was nothing I could do about that because I had to take some evasive action. At the same time as I moved the truck over I radioed to the team to let them know exactly what I was doing. Corey followed me left with his truck.
We’d slowed down below sixty kilometres per hour, our left hand side wheels were running along the soft edge of the bitumen doing more damage than the roads corporation would appreciate. There was only two bogies of the trailer on the dirt but it was enough to make Corey’s life less than pleasant because not only were twenty eight tyres creating dust but that dust and the many loose stones were being flung up at Corey’s truck and the exposed parts of the load.
So back to the business end where I had a sliver Commodore barrelling down at me.
I know it this seems a bit dragged out but honestly I am only telling it like it happened, it seems like a very short time for all this to happen but when you’re sitting in the seat watching it come toward you things seem like they are moving in slow motion and you notice so many things. The other thing could also be that you do find yourself rehashing these sorts of events over and over in the quiet times wondering if you could have done things differently so you do tend to get almost total recall.
As we moved to the left the Commodore stayed in its lane heading for us, I was thinking quickly and I knew that if the car remained on track it would hit the trailer square on. The trailer would take the brunt of the collision but there was no telling what the load would do with such an impact. I really don’t know what difference it would make whilst the car was still five hundred metres away in the daylight but I turned all my lights and driving lights on in the hope of getting the drivers attention.
When the car got within about three hundred metres and still hadn’t slowed or moved onto the gravel I grabbed the air horn chain. There is none of this tuneful honking, or a musical trumpet solo just straight off the shelf air horns, the are loud and only vary in tone if the chain is released. I grabbed that horn and hung on it, a long, loud blast of triple klaxon horns echoed loudly.
Whether it was the horn, the lights or something else like the driver finally waking up I don’t really know but I was thankful for whatever it was that happened next. With less than a hundred metres between the Commodore and the front of my truck the driver suddenly realised that was about to happen and veered savagely to his left.
It was difficult to tell exactly how much speed he washed off in that second or two but the smoke coming from the rear tyres was evidence he was at least trying to slow down. Thankfully for all involved when his rear tyres both made it onto the dirt shoulder he’d released the brake, had he not his skidding tyres could easily have spun him into the truck.
He still wasn’t out of the shit but he was heading there.
Previous Heavy Haulage Story here.