Monday, October 6, 2014

Driving Downhill, in the Snow, with an Empty Trailer...for Newbies.

Driving Downhill, in the Snow, with an Empty Trailer...for Newbies.

Winter, 2012. 1:35PM. Sunny.

If I remember correctly it was early December. I'm new to trucking and traveling with my trainer in a 2011 Kenworth, model T-...errr, T something or other...let's call it a T-SixMillion, or some such nonsense. The company we work for pulls a lot of wallboard out of Gypsum, CO. We are flatbed monkeys on a mission. My trainer is the best the company has and, for that, I am grateful.

I'm behind the wheel heading west through Eisenhower tunnel. Trainer Man occupies the passenger seat and spews relevant advice in his mellow Mississippi accent. He knows what's ahead. I'm clueless—I may have even drooled at one point.

Exiting Eisenhower, he instructs me to slow to a speed below the posted limit. Following a brief internal deliberation, I do as he suggests because I-70, on the west side of Eisenhower, is snow-packed and slick. We move to the right lane, apply the 4-way flashers, and begin our slow descent down the 75% grade. Oops, typo. It's a 7% grade. He then gives me the best piece of advice concerning traveling downhill on snow with an empty trailer, which is: WATCH YOUR TRAILER. An empty trailer, he explains, is more likely to slip and move laterally into another lane of traffic, especially when applying the brakes. If this happens, he recommends placing panic at the bottom of the list of things to do. The fix is simple. Just back out of it (code for easing off the gas) and wait for the trailer to move back behind the truck. As I'm listening to him, my speed slowly increases, and my eyes begin to cross. Sure enough, I tap the brakes and my trailer moves 2 feet to the left. I immediately ease off the gas and my trailer corrects itself in no time flat. Lesson embedded.

Gravity Notes: On snow, an empty trailer is more hazardous than a loaded trailer because there is no weight on the trailer tires to assist with traction. This does not translate to ignoring a loaded trailer. Pay attention to your vehicle as much as possible while maintaining best safety practices. Makes it easier to avoid the pterodactyls that swoop down out of nowhere, grab your trailer, and carry it off to their mountain lairs, impressing the shit out of their girlfriends.

Stay safe.

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