Trailer Talk

‘Oh, Shift!’ What Slamming On The Brakes Will Do

Blog commentary by Tom Berg, Senior Contributing Editor

August 10, 2017

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Stack of steel members slipped forward and rammed the tractor's sleeper. It could've been worse. Images: Tom Berg, from YouTube
Stack of steel members slipped forward and rammed the tractor's sleeper. It could've been worse. Images: Tom Berg, from YouTube

What do you do when the load on the trailer shifts, ramming your sleeper just behind you? Thank the Lord that the stack of steel didn’t go farther, stabbing you in the back. Then call for a wrecker, one with a strong crane that can move the load back where it belongs and whose crew will tie down the load more securely.

That’s the story in this YouTube clip that I found this morning. It was posted by a regular contributor, Ron Pratt, who operates a heavy tow truck for Midwest Truck Sales & Service in Scott City, Missouri. Ron wears a camera on his cap (or helmet) and began shooting this episode on the way to the place where the semi’s driver had parked along Interstate 55.

Wrecker's crane boom reaches forward so its cables can be attached to the shifted load. 
Wrecker's crane boom reaches forward so its cables can be attached to the shifted load.

The clip runs an hour and 12 minutes – kinda long, unless you imagine you’re right on the scene, admiring the work. An intro said the driver had slammed on his brakes to avoid an accident ahead.  In this situation, a shifting load was the lesser of two bad outcomes. You can save time by picking up the video about 30 minutes in, where the actual work begins.

Crew has hooked onto a tie-down chain to begin repositioning of the load. This is a tricky, time- and money consuming process. 
Crew has hooked onto a tie-down chain to begin repositioning of the load. This is a tricky, time- and money consuming process.

This reminds me of a story I heard many years ago, about a rookie trucker on his very first run, dispatched with a load of steel pipe on the flatbed behind. He slammed on the brakes for some reason and the load slid forward, piercing the back of the cab and skewering his back and head – a bloody end to a very short career.

I had that tale in mind about 1980 when I was test-driving a White Road Boss conventional in central Texas. I had borrowed a flatbed trailer loaded with steel I-beams that had been chained down, but the trailer had no bulkhead and the tractor lacked a headache rack.

I was coasting down a long, shallow grade on a wide two-lane country highway, and at the bottom of the hill was an intersection with a traffic signal. It was green, but as I approached to within a few hundred feet, it went to yellow. Should I stop short? Heh heh, no sir! I quickly checked that there was no traffic on the crossroad, then let ‘er roll, sailing through the now-red signal at about 50 mph. No harm done, but whew!

I am amazed that most flatbedders are sufficiently skilled in their tie-down abilities and conscientious in their driving that they almost always avoid such experiences. Bless ‘em!

Comments

  1. 1. hiwayfuelservices.com [ August 14, 2017 @ 02:38PM ]

    Tip: Avoid Hard braking , The drivers can help extend brake life by practicing defensive driving and anticipating motorists, stoplights and other road conditions. Another brake-saving tactic is to coast before stopping so the vehicle slows down before you apply the brakes.

 

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Author Bio

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Tom Berg

Senior Contributing Editor

Journalist since 1965, truck writer and editor since 1978. CDL-qualified; conducts road tests on new heavy-, medium- and light-duty tractors and trucks. Specializes in vocational and hybrid vehicles.

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