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SAFER IN BED

By Roger Clark

November, 2019

Everyone has days they should have stayed in bed. Mine was last Sunday, and it revolved around multiple new technologies drivers love to hate. The first, of course, was the ELD, and the second was something called ‘nautomatic deceleration’.

Every Last Detail pretty well describes today’s ELD’s. Sticking my tongue out reflects how I feel about them, and this driver’s attitude about forced emergency braking isn’t even printable.

I’m not opposed to ELD’s. In fact, I’m not against much of anything, because I never learned to tell time anyway. But there I was, at 02:45 AM, starting a pretrip inspection just ten hours after going off duty. But wait. It wasn’t ten hours. It was nine hours, fifty-nine minutes, and forty five seconds. Busted, over a 15 second violation.

Taking another ten-hour break in our business isn’t logical. Parking loads like ours is foolish, at best, and expensive at worst. Killing myself wasn’t an option and taking a sledgehammer to the offending technology violates company policy. So, I did the right thing, and went to work.

Homicide, however, was not entirely off the list. A little over two hours into my trip, at 5:00 AM, a five­ hundred pound buck wanted my piece of real estate more than I did. What he got was my hood, right between the eyes.

Limping into the Kansas City shop an hour later, I transferred to a bulldog daycab with 600,000 miles on it. I noticed the windows hadn’t been cleaned since it left the factory. A sign on the dashboard said No Smoking, but only because the ashtray was full. Whoknew they smoked on the assembly line?

Returning from Illinois a couple days later, I recovered my original ride, but not without a little drama. It seems the keys weremissing, and mechanics said there was nothing they could do. I wondered aloud how they drove into the shop, if there weren’t anykeys, and they said there was a master key.

So, give me a master key, I said politely. Reaching into a shoebox holding a hundred keys, a mechanic just grabbed one and said, there you go. Sure enough, there I got, delayed only by a couple guys who couldn’t care less.

But my Tuesday was only half over. Little did I know the excitement was too. Motoring across U.S. 36, I noticed a few signs warning drivers of regional farm equipment using the highway. I had seen a few things, like combines, hayracks, and tractors, so I wasprepared, sort of.

That’s when a tractor-trailer grain hauler pulled directly in front of me from the left. I’ve had this kind of thing happen enough times,over the years, that taking evasive action was almost a built-in reaction. But that’s when the truck itself reacted, engaging the feature called nautomatic deceleration, forcing me to reconsider my options.

I have news for the brainiacs who dream this stuff up. A driver who places his trust in such technology is no smarter or luckier than the truck itself. I don’t know about y’all, but when I’m closing on an imminent hazard, at 95 feet per second, I don’t have time to ‘reconsider my options’. I do the right thing. Or not. In this instance, already close enough to read the manufacture plate, I hit the accelerator, which over­ rode the nautomatic deceleration feature. If it hadn’t done an over-ride, I would’ve been writing this from aBrookfield, Missouri hospital bed, where the only deceleration would be in my blood pressure.

My own bed never felt safer, that night!

I have news for the brainiacs who dream this stuff up. A driver who places his trust in such technology is no smarter or luckier than the truck itself. I don’t know about y’all, but when I’m closing on an imminent hazard, at 95 feet per second, I don’t have time to ‘reconsider my options’. I do the right thing. Or not. In this instance, already close enough to read the manufacture plate, I hit the accelerator, which over­ rode the nautomatic deceleration feature. If it hadn’t done an over-ride, I would’ve been writing this from aBrookfield, Missouri hospital bed, where the only deceleration would be in my blood pressure.

My own bed never felt safer, that night!