I’ve always been deathly afraid of 18 wheelers. They are huge! They can take you out in an instant and something that large has to have way too many blind spots for my comfort. Also, knowing that I drive a car larger than a mini cooper and that can’t go under the truck like they did in “The Italian Job” makes me extremely nervous. Just in case, you know.
Take a look at the 21 AskReddit truckers, who share some of their closest calls.
1. Folks in a hurry
My dad’s a truck driver, hauls various gasses (Oxygen, acetylene, argon, etc.). Once, driving west towards Dodge City, KS loaded, it was blizzard conditions, snow on the road, cars in the ditch. A truck comes around and gets in front of our rig, doing way faster than is safe in those conditions. It vanishes from view in the blizzard. A few minutes later, we see the truck come into view, flipped on the road. We had to jump into the oncoming traffic lane to stop, there was no way we were stopping on ice before we smashed into the flipped vehicle. Narrowly missed oncoming traffic, it was absolutely horrifying.
My dad stopped the truck, jumped out and ran to the truck. There were three passengers. All three passengers were dead.
We’ll never forget it.
Why? People in a hurry just couldn’t stand being behind a truck, decided to jump ahead in a blizzard and died for it. Absolutely stupid. There’s no reason they should be dead right now.
For the love of everything good, please drive safely. You’re not going to get to your destination much quicker anyways, and 9 times out of 10 that truck driver is driving as safely as possible. That’s what they’re trained to do. Stopping at railroad tracks, taking extra time on turns, making slow movements on the highway, be patient, they’re trying to look out for you while driving a huge rig.
2. Driving down under
I’m a truck driver in Australia.
I was heading down an area called the Moonbi Hills, it’s a combination of 6-8% grade hills and it’s fairly narrow in places.
I was crawling down in 7th gear (3rd overdrive) on the engine brake when I heard a bang and the motor began chewing oil from the turbo into the engine, creating a runaway event. Before I could even think, it had accelerated and revved right out past the hard RPM cutoff and starting screaming down the hill. I swung it straight into a brake failure bay and let the sand and uphill slow and stop the truck which stalled it.
I ended up getting a tow truck to pull the truck out of the bay via the rear ring feeder and getting towed back to Newcastle.
It was scary how quick it happened. I was in a 26m b-double loaded to 68t (137000 pounds) of flammable oil.
3. Dodging death
I was driving through NC, and as we crested a hill, I could smell burning brakes. A half mile or so ahead of us, there was a beat-up looking truck headed into the runaway lane. He went up, bled off all his speed, and then rolled backwards, jackknifed, and rolled. We stopped and I ran up to the truck. The guy was fine, as he crawled out, he was laughing the slightly hysterical laugh of a guy that just dodged death.
The year was 1988. I was just 20 years old and living in High Level, Alberta, Canada.
I took a job that was promising by wage standards. It entailed driving a split axle dynamite truck. The words dynamite truck don’t even give credence to exactly how dangerous they are.
It wasn’t just one big cubicle of dynamite, they were instead separated compartments inside and lined so that the detonators get loaded up in a separate section from the actual dynamite.
We were to leave High Level for Fox Creek where we were going to load up and then return but I was told we were leaving High Level at an odd time.
When I got on the trip the co driver was the owner of the business and he told me we were leaving at an odd time to miss the weigh scales.
My first trucking job and I was already lined up by ownership to break laws.
So we got to Fox Creek and not only did we load up, we overloaded. Yes, he wanted that truck filled to the top which included throwing things into the separated compartments to pack them up even more.
Fast forward a few hours, this was a one way all the way trip… No sleep no break.
It’s dark, it’s snowing and we’re heading north…
Just as we were about to head into the Peace River Valley, at that designated point where all trucks should start gearing down (especially overloaded dynamite trucks on a snowy night) I attempted to gear down and that’s when the ‘split axle’ jammed. Now freewheeling down the valley on a snowy night, I had just the brakes to use to get that truck to slow down enough we could stop it entirely and get it back into gear. That took a bit, seemed like an hour in memory now. I can tell you for certain, I grew up looking at those runaway tracks always imaging some truckers need to use it and what that situation would have been like. If I had the runaway track I would most certainly have used it there. Instead, the co partner threw away his underwear when I finally did get that truck stopped.
5. What’s that smell?
Here’s a tip, when going down the mountain be sure to pay attention to a burning smell in the air. That means a truck ahead/ near you is braking like a jerk and could be dangerous. I’ve never actually seen a dudes brakes go out but where I’m from, I can’t tell you how many trucks I’ve seen with smoke pouring from their tires as they fly down those mountains.
6. Brake check
I’ve just got my truck and trailer license as my job involves transporting machinery between quarries. First real big trip away from the city and I hit a 6% gradient a couple gears too high and was having to use a fair amount of brakes to keep it in check… It was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever experienced, not having any real idea how long before they start to fade on a steep hill.
7. Thinking of others
My dad lost a buddy of his who was unable to take the runaway lane when his brakes went out. Some family with kids were picnicking on it, and so he chose to drive off the road in a different direction.
8. Burning rubber
I did burn up some brakes going westbound into Salt Lake City Utah on I-80. I had made that trip several times and always downshifted a gear or 2 as I was supposed to, but it always felt like I didn’t need to and I was going way too slow. So this one time I decided, “Screw it, I’ll just keep it in 10th, it will be ok.” Will never make that mistake again
Brakes were super spongy and smoke billowing out of the wheels. Thought I was gonna crap myself. The worst part was it was early morning and there was a ton of traffic. Luckily no one was hurt because of my stupidity that day.
9. Please put it down
I’m a passenger on my husband’s truck.
The way people will just cut in front and start braking always puts me on edge. I can’t even get that mad at them, I’m sure I did stupid crap with a truck behind me when I was driving a car, it’s just something you don’t think about before you’ve been in one.
I hate it some days, and with people on their phones now more than ever, not paying attention….
We have a dash cam, we are up high – the dash cam can see you with your phone in both hands as the sides of your hands steer and your head is tilted down looking at it. Please put the phone down.
10. 5 miles
My mother was a trucker for a number of years, and in the early 80s was hauling a load to California.
At the top of the mountain, in grapevine, she had the brakes on the trailer adjusted for the trip down the mountain. Instead, the guy had accidentally backed her trailer brakes completely off.
So she starts trucking down interstate five down the mountain in a beat up old peterbilt when she learns that truck, trailer, and 20 tons of taco sauce have only the tractor brakes to stop the thing. She managed to bring it down to 6th gear in an 8 speed, and then the brakes were too hot to slow the truck down, speedometer needle passed 100 and stopped against the peg, engine over-revved, and she rode the thing down the hill laying on the horn the entire way. She didn’t take a runoff ramp because she didn’t want to get fired, didn’t have an engine brake to slow the truck down either.
So she rides this thing down the mountain in the triple digits, smoke pouring off her axles, dodging traffic.
When she hit the bottom of the mountain, she said it took her about five miles to stop the truck.
11. Rocky Mountains
I was driving north through the mountains of Colorado towards Pueblo, and it was my first time dealing with anything like the Rocky Mountains so I was taking it nice and slow with my hazards on and in the right lane. This was in the spring, and there wasn’t much snow on the ground aside from a light dusting.
I remember passing another truck pulled to the shoulder on my way up, nothing out of the ordinary. However, as I was heading down the mountain (which can be scary as crap in an 18-wheeler, trust me) I saw the same truck I passed earlier FLY by me in the left hand lane. Now being passed on the left going DOWNHILL in the ROCKY MOUNTAINS by another TRACTOR TRAILER is crazy enough, but what really makes this story is this guy’s trailer brakes were on fire. He was pulling a load (I could tell because the trailer was sealed) and if you know anything about trucks you know there’s only so much braking you’re supposed to do before they overheat or, worse, catch fire.
This guy’s truck looked like a comet as he sped down the mountain at what I thought was a surely to be deadly pace.
I grabbed the mic to the radio and called out to him, “Hey Driver! Your brakes are on fire! I mean literally on fire!”
This rough and weathered sounding voice comes back over the speaker of my radio and says, cool as a cucumber, “I know.”
And he disappeared around a curve.
I never saw any wrecked truck, emergency crews, or even mention of an accident over the radio.
I did see a discarded fire extinguisher on the ground at the base of the mountain though.
12. A gnat flying down a shotgun barrel
Once on the I70 in a 79,800 lbs truck, a car cut me off then slammed on the brakes. I had to cook my brakes to the point they were almost on fire and stopping ability was severely impaired. Then a motorbike got in between me and said car. I thought I was going to kill the fellow.
I was blasting air horn to get the guy out of the way, but he didn’t understand he was a gnat flying down a shotgun barrel. I almost completely lost brakes right before traffic came to a complete stop. I had to get out with the fire extinguisher in hand, crawl under my truck and make sure there was no flames coming from my half melted liquid brakes, as my steer tires (very front) were throwing up huge clouds of smoke. This was all in front of a cop that had the right lane closed and 2 lanes merging into one. I couldn’t see this ahead of time as it was around a bend and was blind to it until it was too late. If I wasn’t cut off there would be no issue. If there was a runaway ramp I would have taken it, as I almost killed a biker. But there wasn’t one.
13. Not cool enough
Just about four years ago my boyfriend died.
He was coming out of the mountains in a WV, and he smoked his breaks, so he had to pull over to let them cool off in between hills. He apparently didn’t let them cool off enough.
He lost control about a half mile from the bottom. I haven’t seen the area myself, but I’m told quite a few truckers have died there and a ramp could easily have saved his life.
To all the truckers, please be careful out there. I know we all think it won’t happen to us, but it does happen to some and I know none of you want to leave loved ones behind for a silly mistake.
14. Tunnel vision
My dad was a lorry driver around Europe when I was around 13 and he would take me with him. I got to see some incredible things and went to loads of countries I haven’t seen since.
This particular time we were coming out of a tunnel, I’d like to say it was the Mont Blanc but I can’t be sure, looking at pictures it doesn’t remind me of the roads you get on the way out. The road was high altitude, and windy on the way down. The roads are elevated and there are a lot of S turns.
We heard a message over CB radio that someone needed help, their brakes weren’t working. The lane you used when you had no brakes was situated at the bottom of the mountain exit road. So there’s no way he was making it. He’d asked if anyone could help. My dad volunteered but was too far behind. We listened as another two drivers agreed they would make a block in the road so he could smash into the back of them to slow himself until they reached the toll at the bottom of the road.
He complained that it was a new motor and his boss would kill him. In the end he weighed up his options fairly quickly and agreed he’d smash into the other lorry from behind and the driver in front would slow his brakes for the remainder of the journey. It worked and we passed them further down the road.
Had there been no other English speaking drivers around, I’m pretty sure he would have endured a horrible death by plummeting from the road into the abyss below.
That was the first time I learned about the roads they built to be used by drivers who’ve brakes have failed. Further down the road my dad pointed it out. There was no way he was making it. Incidentally, it’s the first time I learned that brakes wouldn’t work because of the heat from friction and the ridiculous heavy load they are carrying.
15. Runaway lane
I have never used the runaway lane but I did witness it being used once. It was the first real heavy load I ever hauled, 56,000 pounds of steel plates and bars. I was going down a section of the Coquillhalla below the Penask Summit. I was in an old GMC Brigadier with no engine brake but really good brakes, I started from the brake check nice and slow and kept the truck in 3rd gear in low range, about 30kmph, foot on the brake at 10lbs of application pressure, this isn’t enough to overheat the brakes as they are dissipating enough heat to keep working properly. I was about 3-4 Kms down when a fully loaded lumber truck went flying past me, I first thought maybe I was really being too careful but soon I realized I was doing the right thing, the truck went up the runaway lane and went right to the top, then it came back down. There was lumber everywhere, the truck jackknifed and stopped before getting back to the highway. It took a couple of weeks for the lumber to all get picked up.
16. Gravel teachings
On US12 bringing my family back from vacation in Idaho, we saw a semi ditch into a runaway ramp. I learned then that that gravel is about 4 feet deep, because that truck sank up to its axles and gravel flew everywhere. I just kept driving. There wasn’t anything I could’ve done, but it was horrifying.
17. Laying on the horn
Passenger on my dad’s truck. He was driving at night, near the France -Italy border and dunno but this time something went wrong. Also, because it was at night we barely noticed the smoke, another truck from our country was laying on the horn to draw our attention. I nearly crapped myself when I saw the smoke but in the end the brakes cooled off and everything was fine.
18. Cross country
I drove across country twice last year, one southern route, one northern. I listened to the CB the entire time. It was scary how bad the average driver is, and how much helpful information the average driver misses out on because they DON’T have a CB radio. I was able to get rerouted around several back ups, knew about every cop and speed trap, and also got great food suggestions.
If you’ve not driven cross country with a CB radio, then you haven’t done it right. Thanks truckers!
I was driving back to my college town one day on a big fat patch of five miles of fresh road, and I came upon three truckers. They were weaving back and forth across all four lanes, and to be honest it looked pretty rad. They were synchronizing their turns perfectly, and it looked like a hardcore road dragon or something.
It was terrifying, I couldn’t believe they would do that.
20. The Man
I’m a diesel mechanic. A regular customer had a flattop peterbilt with straight pipes and a 600 horsepower engine.
One of his buddies passed him on I-80 eastbound around mm155. So this fella says on the CB, “Pay attention, I’m going to close the gap”. (That means watch out for cops, here he comes.)
He hears back on the CB, “C’Mon, C’Mon!” so he mashes the throttle down, and lets loose the same cubic inch displacement as about 5 nissan altimas. Things get loud, and the scenery blurs.
Then flashing lights. Then it hits him. It was the wrong voice on the radio. Not his buddy, it was the cop. He was going 92 in a 70. I had to hear about this from other drivers for the rest of the night, everyone that went by while the MAN had him pulled over.
21. Close call indeed
Turnpike heading west into icy weather. Roads are fine so far. I should still be an hour or so from the storm so I’m doing about 65 up and down the mountains.
As I’m coming down a steep grade I decide to turn my radio on and ask eastbound how the roads are treating them. Right as I grab my mic a guy comes on saying, “westbound back her down! Black ice in the curve at the bottom post the 223” (or whatever mile marker I was at). I catch the next marker and realize, “Oh my god that’s for me.”
I’m full with 44000lbs of bananas going down a steep hill with a curve at the end with only a guardrail separating the road from a 300ft drop.
I got it down to about 30mph before I entered the curve and felt my steer tires start to slip and the trailer trying to push my butt end around.
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