Holiday parties are a great place to be cornered and issued “feedback” on your life. Being a columnist opens you up for this kind of thing. I have to admit that I receive mostly positive feedback about my rants and ramblings in the paper, but not always. I rarely set out to agitate anyone but sometimes my words hit hard. Some have scorned me publicly and I have even been “unfriended” by friends and family on Facebook.
As of this moment, I still have 1,059 friends on Facebook, half of whom I vaguely know, so who cares if my sister-in-law can’t take a joke?
“Would you like some feedback?” came at me at a party recently.
“No, thanks,” I answered truthfully, preferring a “Happy Holidays, Steve” but not getting one.
“You know about a lot of things but you shouldn’t write about what you don’t know,” he offered.
I bit, wondering what in this great big world I didn’t know enough about to write about. Almost everyone I know knows that I know almost everything and if I bother to write about it, I sure as hell know EVERYTHING there is to know. “Don’t start ’till you know everything.” That’s my motto.
“OK, what don’t I know about?” I queried.
“Logging trucks,” he answered.
I’ve mentioned logging trucks a couple of times and even wrote a relatively inspired piece after an apparently inattentive trucker drove his 1968 Peterbilt through a red light on Highway 82 killing a woman who was pulling out onto the road. The skid marks were there for almost a year, a grim reminder of the outcome of Jeep vs. logging transport. I was upset by this accident and assumed that the early-model truck could not stop as quickly as a newer model and maybe even contributed to the accident.
I learned from my critic that Peterbilt is the best in the business and that any 1968 model still on the road would have upgraded brake systems, steering, etc. I did probably overstep my knowledge when I assumed that the 1968 fully-loaded rig could stop as fast as a fully loaded 200,000-pound 2010 log transport.
I do know that these rigs make me nervous and I give them a wide berth. When I pass one on the road or one passes me I feel like a kayaker next to an ocean liner.
The research I conducted prior to writing that column included reading accident reports, reading safety regulations, studying studies on innovations in braking and other sad and boring stuff. I was accused by my adversary that knowledge does not begin and end at Wikipedia. True, but often Wikipedia can be a good place to start. There’s a lot of information there that even an expert at everything like myself already knows doesn’t know.
I even went online to see if I could even find a 1968 Peterbilt for sale on the market. I did discover some really cool vintage photos but none of these timeless rugged trucks were for sale. Maybe 1968 Peterbilts are just so good that they are like Honda Civics. They are still loved and driven by their passionate owners.
One of the things I learned from a study by the New York Department of Transportation is that trucks that weigh this much quickly degrade infrastructure like bridges and roads. They found that one truck equals roughly 9,000 cars when it comes to wear and tear. Last year I saw a fully-loaded log transport rumbling down Hendrick Drive, the residential road that I live on in Carbondale. I’m pretty confident that Hendrick Drive was not designed to be a log transport shortcut but it was that day. I felt like a waterbug next to an ocean liner on my bike as it went by.
Thanks to the pine beetle infestation, we are going to be seeing a lot more of these trucks coming through our towns. They do important work but we have to expect the highest standards from their equipment and drivers. And, if you want a bit of unsolicited advice, I suggest that you assume that the driver cannot see you and that he will not stop, and that quite possibly the load will come down at any time. You might say that I’m ignorant but I am still alive, quite possibly thanks to my vigilance and evasive maneuvers. Maybe I’m just lucky. I have respect for the industry and the drivers of these monsters. I also respect physics and try to stay the hell out of their way.
In the past couple of weeks some people here have raised alarms about the increased number of water and chemical trucks associated with natural gas development coming through Carbondale on their way up McClure Pass. These water rigs are just as heavy as the logging trucks and I expect we will see consequences from their passage over our underfunded roadways very soon.
I admit up front that I am no expert when it comes to these water transport trucks but the consequences of heavy truck traffic are apparent on Highway 82, especially between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. It doesn’t take an engineer to see distinct gullies in all of the upvalley and downvalley lanes. These gullies pull your vehicle around when it’s dry and when it rains or snows, the gullies become extremely hazardous. A first responder who I know said that they get a call about an accident on this stretch almost within minutes of every rain or snowfall.
Steve Skinner notes that the average salary of a timber transport professional is just over $33,000 per year. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.