Brandon R. Farmer reported that he had jumped on a semitrailer stopped at a red light at an intersection in Washington Court House. Farmer, who lives there, said he and a buddy were on a sidewalk downtown, drinking and joking, and his friend dared him to jump on the back of the westbound tractor-trailer as it waited at the traffic light. He did.
The trailer was a grain hauler, which explains the presence of the vertical ladder on its rear, said a deputy in the Fayette County Sheriff's office. Its 911 dispatcher figured out that Farmer and the semi were entering a nearby town and alerted its police force. An officer stopped the semi so Farmer could get off.
Farmer told authorities that he meant to ride on the back of the trailer until it stopped at the next traffic signal, then hop off. But the semi's driver got all green lights after he resumed travel because no cross traffic tripped pavement sensors that would've activated a red light.
"With very light traffic at that hour of the morning, the semi was able to proceed through Washington Court House without stopping for a red signal," said Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth. The truck driver was unaware that Farmer had jumped on the back of his trailer.
"I was joking around, you know? It was stupid. Now, I'm scared of falling..." he told the dispatcher.
'What's Your Emergency?'
The semi proceeded out of town and traveled almost 17 miles before Farmer called 911 at 3:32 a.m. The exchange went like this:
Dispatcher: "Sheriff's 9-1-1, what's your emergency?"
Farmer (talking fast): "My emergency, uh, I'm on the back of a moving semi. I, I jumped on because he was at a red light, and he took off. It was kind of a joke, you know? But now I'm all the way on [U.S.] 22, and I'm on the back of a semi and he has no idea that I'm on the back of it. I was joking around, it was stupid, but ah, now I'm scared of falling off right now."
Dispatcher: "What's the last road you crossed?"
Farmer: "We're on 22 heading towards Wilmington..."
Dispatcher: "I understand. Give me a landmark or a road that you passed."
Farmer: "We're at, uh, we have passed, like, the corner of Lombard, heading towards, like, Sabina. We're almost in Sabina heading from Washington Court House. I'm holding on for dear life right now. It's not the man's fault, but honestly, I'm, ah…"
At about 3:40 a.m., a Sabina police officer, parked in a grocery store's lot, spotted Farmer hanging on the back of the trailer. He was waving and yelling for help while clinging to the trailer's ladder.
The officer pulled behind the rig and activated his lights and siren so its driver would pull over. He did. The officer aided the shaken Farmer and transported him to the sheriff's office back in Washington Court House.
Farmer was not injured in the incident, but was arrested and charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct. He waived his right to a court appearance and pled guilty, paying a fine of $110 plus $95 in costs and fees, according to a clerk in the city's municipal court.
Asked if Farmer might hop on the back of another semi, she replied, "Well... you'd have to see him. We've seen him before."
A sheriff's spokesman said he did not have the name of the truck's driver or owner because no charges against them were anticipated. Asked if any charges were possible, he replied, "On what basis?"
That ladder, actually. Although common on grain trailers to help drivers to cover loads, ladders bring up possible liability. If Farmer had been a child and not an alleged adult, a sharpie lawyer might find an excuse to sue, even if it wouldn't get far in a common-sense community like Washington Court House, Ohio.
Some years ago in Washington, D.C., a child climbed aboard a passing fuel-oil delivery truck, then fell and was hurt. A personal-injury lawyer claimed the steps and ladder on the truck's rear was an "attractive nuisance," like an unfenced swimming pool in someone's backyard. He won monetary damages for the child and his parents.
Attorneys for the American Trucking Associations brought up that case to thwart an effort by members of ATA's Technology & Maintenance Council to write recommendations for steps and handholds for vans and other types of trailers. Adding such equipment might make things safer for drivers and helpers, but might also invite passers-by to climb aboard and injure themselves, the attorneys pointed out. TMC promptly dropped its efforts and there still are no official guidelines for spec'ing that sort of hardware.
However, for safety-minded buyers who fear no lawyers (but perhaps are concerned about things like driver satisfaction, healthcare costs and worker's comp), manufacturers do offer many types of steps and handles as options.