Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Never Get Outta The Boat


This is a clip from Apocalypse Now.  Chef is the name of the guy screaming "Goodbye Tiger!".  This can be you if you don't heed the following information. 

Like these two GI's leaving the riverboat to explore the shoreline, leaving the interstate to explore unfamiliar areas in your semi truck is just as dangerous.  It is just like driving into a jungle. 

When I started driving, and for every day prior to when I started driving, we had payphones and CB's.  No cellphones.  No GPS.  No Internet.  No Laptops.  No EZPASS.

It was simple.  Unless you had directions to where you were going, you didn't go there.  It was as plain as that.  If you couldn't get directions, the load didn't get delivered or picked up.  Or you will end up in worse condition than Chef did in the video clip.  I had many a load that didn't get service because the shipper or reciever didn't give an accurate phone number so I couldn't get in touch with them.  The delivery or pick up time would come and go and I would call the dispatch office and say, "No one ever called me back and I can't get directions, so the load isn't going to make it on time.  Call me back at this payphone when you hear anything or I will call you back if I don't hear from you."

Getting directions is very important because you must rely on actual information from people who know the area.  Many times truck drivers who are new and don't understand the roads around the United States and Canada will rely on modern day GPS systems to guide their path.  I still have a general rule that if you are going to exit the highway and you aren't familiar with the area, you should be able to see the place that you are going to park the truck before you exit.  Not only should you be able to see it, you should see how to get there.  As a new truck driver who doesn't know the roads like the back of their hand, you should stay on the main highways unless you have clear instructions to exit the highway.  In other words "Never get outta the boat".

There are too many "professional" truck operators hitting bridges with their trucks and trailers.  These drivers regularly blame the GPS for their grievances.  How can a person do this?  The GPS is merely a tool.  It is NOT TO BE TRUSTED.

Let me repeat that.


The governor of New York is working to learn why so many people have been hitting bridges in New York lately.  Marlaina has done an excellent story about this on her blog.

As you may see, Marlaina is a pro and this post is worthy of some serious praise.  It also comes at a very opportune time as is reported in the post. 

Many times, Salena and I will exit the interstate and find ourselves in a place that's very difficult to navigate.  Thing is, that I know where I am going.  I have either been there many times or know someone who has been there and has given me directions  If I don't know, I don't go.

When laptops first became available I went out and bought one.  It was 1998 and it was a Compaq Laptop Pentium I with 128 MB of hard drive space and a dial-up 56K modem.  It was $3500.00 back then.  Currently it functions as a door stop at one of Salena's friend's houses.  I plugged in a GPS module and loaded a DeLorme United States mapping program into it.  It did give your accurate location, speed, and elevation, but the maps were created by Etak.  Etak GPS was the first GPS created back in the 80's and you've probably never heard of it before.

These maps were old.  When I first started using this system, I would call whoever was in charge of using the old maps that Etak created, and let them know that one of the streets listed on their software wasn't correct.  Some of these streets were renamed decades ago and still had the old street names displayed by Etak.  Etak supplied these maps to everyone.  It didn't matter which program you bought, the maps were Etak.  Etak's maps are seldomly being used anymore thanks to modern technology, but believe it or not, you may find on your mapping software a little note at the bottom which says, "Maps by Etak".  Some of these maps are 30 years old.

Just for fun one day, I took a trip to Staten Island and followed the GPS on the laptop with the DeLorme (Etak) maps.  I followed the road, and was supposed to keep following the road, but if I had done that, I would have wound up in the ocean.  The road deadended at a seawall, and I sat there looking out of my bug covered windshield, over my dusty green hood, at the Atlantic ocean.  This is where the Delorme software was faulty and did not have accurate information. 

Modern technology is flawed.  It will be excellent one day, but for now, it is never to be trusted.

Before you read this next story, know that this is the kind of truck driver who will probably not be able to drive a semi truck again.  He very foolishly thought he could trust his GPS and when confronted with a sign saying 12-1/2 feet in bridge height, he still proceeded to drive through the covered bridge.

Truck heavily damages NE Indiana covered bridge


Northern Indiana police say a tractor-trailer that drove across a historic covered bridge heavily damaged the nearly 140-year-old span by shattering many of its roof trusses.The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department says the tractor-trailer rig inflicted about $100,000 in damage to the Spencerville Covered Bridge when it rumbled across the 1873 bridge on Wednesday afternoon.Truck driver Gerard Hudson of Waukegan, Ill., was arrested on a felony criminal mischief charge. He remained jailed Thursday at the DeKalb County Jail in lieu of $1,500 bail.Police say Hudson admitted driving through the bridge that's marked with a clearance of 12 1/2 feet.
Nearby resident Lisa Vetter tells the Journal Gazette the damage to the bridge about 20 miles northeast of Fort Wayne "is a huge travesty for the community."The sheriff’s department said that Hudson acknowledged driving across the bridge that spans the St. Joseph River near Spencerville about 20 miles northeast of Fort Wayne and told deputies that his rig’s GPS device had directed him to cross the bridge.The Journal Gazette reported Thursday that county highway Superintendent Eric Patton closed the red-and-white bridge Wednesday to traffic.While the department initially estimated the damage at about $100,000, Patton said Thursday that the final damage assessment would be far higher. He joined members of an Indianapolis engineering firm on the bridge Thursday who were assessing the damage.
Patton said the tractor-trailer traveled the entire length of the bridge — the county’s only covered bridge — shattering trusses as it traveled.“He started on the west end and actually took the east end with him,” Patton said.He said the bridge is clearly marked that it has a clearance of 12 feet, 6 inches and also has signs to that effect posted at each end of the span.According to the Indiana Historical Bureau’s website, the bridge has been in use since it was built in 1873. It underwent an extensive restoration in 1981 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places the same year.Lisa Vetter, who lives about one mile from the bridge, said Thursday that she and other local residents are stunned by the incident that heavily damaged the span.“I think everybody is pretty dumbfounded and not able to comprehend how anyone in their right mind could drive a semi through a 140-year-old covered bridge. It just boggles the mind. I just don’t get it,” she said.

You don't want to be this poor guy who has thrown his career away trying to find out if his truck will fit under a 140 year old bridge.


ELH said...

ED, what a knucklehead...some people are just plain ol stupid....if in doubt, any kindA doubt, i always say don't....pretty simple, but very safe...an idiot like that shouldn't drive again...

Marlaina said...

This is sheer idiocy. The guy deserves whatever is thrown at him. The bridge was clearly marked with an accurate clearance sign 12 foot six inches.

The problem, as you know, in New York is that the state has chosen to put fake clearances, so drivers get confused.

You're the GPS is a helpful resource that is far from infallible, in most cases -- this guy aside -- drivers need to trust accurate signs at the obstruction.

The other problem is that GPS will not go away so it needs to have accurate information. It's time every jurisdiction is required to have regularly available, accurate, up to date maps.

Unfortunately there's an idiot in every crowd.

Ed said...

Yes Marlaina, this guy shouldn't have blamed the GPS. It would be nice if the GPS were made to be accurate with correct bridge heights and lane widths. I get more and more directions these days that the people are getting off of the internet instead of the old fashioned way (where the customer knows the truck route).

As people become more tech savvy, everyone is going to the internet for their information. It should be accurate. There really is no excuse. If Google can send a car all over the world that takes pictures of everything it sees and then uploads it to the internet, the states should be able to provide accurate road and bridge information.

He will be out of work as a trucker for awhile. Having a criminal record wont prevent people from becoming a driver, but it will limit his ability to haul HazMat and get security clearances. He may still face civil penalties for what he did. At any rate, he shouldn't have been behind the wheel in the first place.