Dashboard Confidential December/January 2019

You’ve got to dodge ’em; you’ve got to duck ’em

December 2018/January 2019

Dave Sweetman

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For as long as I have been driving big trucks, parking has always been a consideration. Life was much simpler when I had a cabover, pulling a 42-foot trailer.

Over the years, the trailers got bigger, and my trucks got bigger. I went to a hood instead of the cabover and then bigger custom sleepers. Call it progress, added creature comforts and trying to make the best use of space to make life on the road more comfortable.

There are drawbacks, but the positives outweigh the negatives. I know, I hear it – poor guy in a big, fancy truck – but they didn’t give it away. I busted my butt for it, but I’ll stop griping.

Besides the normal maneuvering in tight areas that sometimes make for a tight squeeze – same as every driver out here – I can still hear my old Army driving instructor telling me to “swing it wide!” I have never wiped out any fire hydrants or phone poles, but I have been within inches. Sometimes it’s just blind, dumb luck.

As trucks have gotten bigger, unfortunately parking spots have not changed much. Many truck stop parking spaces are still allocated for 45-foot trailers. I always thought that it would be better and safer for everyone if the slots were angled so that when you come down the aisle, you are lined up at nearly the proper angle to your left instead of a 90-degree hard jack. Easy in, easy out.

I realize that everyone can have a bad day. I realize that driving and backing skills differ, and I also realize some drivers need that proverbial 40 acres to turn that rig around.

But some of the drivers just don’t pay attention, are messing with their cellphone, or have headphones on jamming out and are distracted. I also realize that some of these guys make me nervous, so – I will get out and help them back in, thereby sparing my fenders, hood and bumper.

I am also very picky where and how I park. I never park on the end of the row. Over the years I have witnessed too many drivers losing their hood or fenders and have personally helped apprehend the bad guy on several occasions. I once had a driver knock me out of bed when he drove into the side of my trailer and was trying to get away until I stopped him. He swore he didn’t do it, but the green on the front of his truck was a give-away.

“Golly, did I do that? I made it all the way to Connecticut, and now this happens.”

As if it were some divine intervention that moved his hood into my trailer.

And the late-night phone call to my boss was less than happy.

“I have good news and bad news. I got hit in the Carlisle Petro.”

Boss: “What’s the good news?”

Me: “Uhhh, they hit your trailer, not my truck.”

But I got the correct info from the driver, took plenty of pictures and let the insurance companies duke it out. After, of course, they stopped saying their driver was not at that location.

Considering that I took pictures of his license plate, truck number, registration, driver’s license and vehicle. I recommend that everyone carry a disposable camera in their safety kit. It may just save your bacon.

Since the mandate of electronic logs, I have noticed there is an increasing shortage of truck parking. It seems like many drivers are solar powered, as available parking gets harder to find after 4 p.m. Not just in one or two areas either. I-75 from Toledo, Ohio, to Atlanta is a good example. And it seems to be getting tougher. So, what is a driver to do to utilize allowable driving hours? Kudos to Kentucky for allowing truck parking in their weigh stations, as I have taken them up on it several times, even though I had drive time left. I knew there would be nothing available farther on up the road. Same for Florida and Mississippi.

Alabama’s westbound weigh station on I-20 gets a big razzberry. It’s a huge parking lot but posted “no overnight parking.” Thanks for nothing.

I hope everyone has a very merry Christmas, happy holidays and a safe, prosperous New Year. LL