Thirteen was a lucky number for a man who was threatening to jump to his death off of an overpass outside Detroit.

“A man stood on a freeway overpass near Detroit early Thursday, threatening to jump. So 13 tractor-trailers lined up underneath, ready to break his fall," reported CNN.

We first saw the story on local Detroit news sites, such as the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press. Then it spread, via Facebook and Twitter and more. Soon it was posted on websites for People magazine and CNN, meaning local TV stations also picked it up, such as Montana’s KBZK, and Flint, Michigan’s ABC12.

Michigan state troopers closed off both directions of Interstate 696 and diverted traffic. But they looked for tractor-trailers exiting the highway and directed the truckers to drive on ahead instead of detouring and park beneath the overpass. The result was 13 trucks packed in tightly, so if the man had fallen or jumped, it would have been only a 5- or 6-foot drop onto a trailer roof, rather than 14 feet to the highway below.

People ended up talking the man down, but it took several hours.

In a follow up story, Fox 2 reported that the state troopers started using this tactic 23 years ago. Lt. Mike Shaw of the Michigan State Police said there's never been an issue getting the busy drivers to step up.

"They want to help out too. Nobody wants to see somebody take their own life and if it takes parking your truck underneath an overpass for a couple of hours to make sure somebody's is safe, they're more than willing to do something like that," Shaw said.

Several truck drivers told ABC12 they've never seen or heard of this before. “But without a moment of hesitation, they would do this if called up for action,” the station reported. 

When you think about the tight schedules drivers are facing under mandatory ELDs, that’s pretty impressive. (Hopefully the truckers all remembered to put an annotation in their logs...)

But it’s not surprising, of course, to anyone in the industry who has seen the heroic and selfless acts truckers perform. Of course, there are always the bad apples who give trucking a bad name. But the kind of truckers who without question give of their time to help police in an effort like this? These are the true portrait of the trucking industry. And it’s wonderful to see it getting such widespread publicity.

As one Twitter user posted, “Heroes don't always ride white horses.”

While Fox 2 Detroit’s arresting photo of the trucks parked mirror-to-mirror beneath the overpass was the widely circulated on social media, Shaw emphasized that also in that photo was a man who was struggling with the decision to take his own life.

Truckers, too, are no stranger to depression. Please remember help is available through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Author

Deborah Lockridge
Deborah Lockridge

Deborah Lockridge

Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology. 28 Jesse H. Neal honors.

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Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology. 28 Jesse H. Neal honors.

View Bio
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