17 August, 2008

Move over or slow down!

Part of my job as a truck mechanic involves going out on service calls. If you're not familiar with the trucking industry, the idea of a mechanic coming to you to fix your car might seem odd. The difference is in towing. If you thought having your car towed is expensive, be glad you don't operate a big truck. Having a tractor and trailer towed can easily run over $600. The cost of a tow is bad enough, but then you have to add on repair costs once the rig is at a shop. Most of the time, the most logical choice is to have a mechanic (someone like me) go to the truck and repair it on-site. It can save money and, this is important in trucking, time. Most of the service calls I do are to parking lots of some sort. Truck stops, warehouses, rest areas and the like. But occasionally a driver simply can't make it to a safe haven and has to pull over onto the roadside. For all involved, the roadside is not a good place to be. Most states have "Move Over" laws which require drivers to move to a lane further away from emergency vehicles. Therein lies the problem. Drivers will move over for police cars, fire trucks and ambulances frequently, but won't do it for people like me. I want to make it crystal clear to everyone reading this that service trucks, tow trucks and tire trucks fit into the "emergency vehicle" category. Simply put, if you see flashing lights of any kind on the side of the road, you need to move over. Sometimes it's not possible to change lanes due to traffic and I understand that, but if you can't change lanes please slow down. I don't mean slowing from 75 mph to 70 mph, I mean slow down to somewhere in the 40-45 mph range. Sometimes I have to be on the traffic side of a truck and having someone whip by at 70 mph just a few feet away scares the hell out of me. The thing that really gets my blood boiling is seeing a vehicle coming towards me that can easily change lanes, but doesn't. I guess sometimes that phone call or text message is more important than the safety of a person on the roadside. I'm guessing that the people who can't be bothered to change lanes or slow down have never been on the side of an interstate highway. I had a close call a few months ago that scared me to my core. I had to be on the traffic side of a truck and was very close to the white line. I'd check for traffic and do my work when no vehicles were coming. I always keep one eye looking up the road so I don't get surprised. So, I see a truck coming and duck into the space between the truck I was working on and the trailer it was pulling. Well, not only did the oncoming truck not move over, it didn't even slow down. It was also dangerously close to the white line. When that truck roared by there couldn't have been more than a few inches between its right mirror and the left mirror of the truck I was working on. I'd say it was about two feet from me. My hat was blown off my head, road dirt got blown at me and I was sure that I'd pissed my pants (I didn't). In the split second that I could see into the cab of the passing truck, I noticed the guy was yakking away on his cell phone. There were no other vehicles near so he could have safely changed lanes, but he didn't. It was a Schneider rig by the way. I take mental notes of the assholes who don't pull over if they can. Anyway, I stayed composed long enough to finish the job and get back to the shop. Then I started shaking. I thought about how easily I could've been killed and it chilled my blood. I called a friend because I needed to calm down and I knew that hearing her voice would do the trick. Since I'm at the end of this little story, I have a request to make of you. I'm simply asking for you to keep an eye out for emergency vehicles on the side of the road and, if you can do so safely, move to a lane further away from the emergency vehicle. If you can't safely change lanes, please slow down. I'd also like you to remind the people you know to move over or slow down. I can't change things on my own, but we can make a difference if we all pitch in. So please, move over or slow down.

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