By: Steve Irick
After completing my scheduled shift, I was informed that a driver had called in sick and was asked if I wanted to fill in on his run. I’ve always enjoyed running doubles, and even though it was in the middle of winter, I looked forward to a drive in the mountains.
When I arrived to work the next morning, there was snow in the forecast. It was clear at the time I left the yard, but of course, Colorado weather is noted for its weather changes, so I wasn’t expecting things to remain as they were.
Not even halfway through my run, it started to snow and as I drove, it continued to intensify. The road was empty when I encountered an oncoming big truck. I radioed him and asked if conditions ahead were better or worse. He advised chaining up, so I pulled over on a wide spot.
When I got out of the cab, the snow was coming down heavy. I waded through knee-deep snow to get my chains. All I had were three-railers. I laid them out and got to work.
It was sloppy, but I had a change of clothes, so even though I was going to wet, I knew that at the end of the day I could change into something dry.
The first set went on without a problem, but that was all.
I worked the second set over the duals, connected the inside link and was working on the center rail when I discovered there was not a connecting link. Frustrated, I pulled the chains off and went to the saddle box for another set.
I looked at the chains as I laid them out in the ever-deepening snow, and everything seemed in order. I continued on, connecting the inside, then the center and then the outside rails. At that point, I discovered that once again an important part was missing: a simple piece that retained the outside tightening lever. Once more, I had to remove the chains.
By this time, I was more than frustrated. If I could’ve, those chains would have been thrown far out into the forest, but they were too heavy to do any more than just dump them into the saddle box with the other damaged set.
The third set of chains was closely examined and naturally went on without an issue. But by that time I was not happy, very wet and definitely behind schedule.
When I arrived at the drop point, I was reminded by the waiting driver just how late I was.
Weather cleared and after parking for the night I learned that another storm was expected. On my trip back, I would pick up the trailer I had dropped off and return with a set of empties. I decided to leave early to avoid any weather-related problems.
When I got to the drop point, I discovered the second trailer had frozen brakes, and I would have to crawl underneath to break them loose. I wasn’t going to let my dry clothes get messed up, so I took a furniture blanket and threw it underneath. I began pounding on the drums to release the frozen brakes.
A few solid hits on each side loosened up not only the brakes, but a massive buildup of semi-frozen road slush that fell directly on me. I was covered from head to toe with the worst winter road slop imaginable and had nothing clean or dry to change into.
I spent four hours driving back to my terminal wet and miserable.
When I returned, the first thing my manager asked was why I was so dirty. “Did you forget to bring a clean set of clothes?’ he joked.
It was very difficult to leave that day without responding to his comment, but fortunately I did.
Isn’t winter driving fun?!