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18 Wheeler Safety and Maintenance

Updated on November 14, 2015

I recently suffered from having a truck assigned to me that was not correctly repaired from an accident prior to my employment. During the time I drove it, the steering system got worse and worse, trips in and out of major repair centers, and the owner became so frustrated that between me, the owner and the truck and repair centers not being on their toes, I chose to leave and pursue another position, where I hoped they would have trucks that are in better condition.

You think that in our modern age of mechanics, diagnostics, that experienced mechanics and alignment specialists, they could have found the problems and fixed the truck with less hassle, but unless everyone is working together, and not willing to assume what is wrong, there can be wasteful attempts and lots of money put out there without actually solving a problem. The driver indeed is mostly at the mercy of the company that he works for. He is the professional driver. He is the one that makes the wheels roll and gets the product to the delivery point. He should be able to rely on the maintenance and repair crews. (this problem went through the dealer, a truck stop repair center twice, both of the company shops at least twice, ) could anyone have shouted it out any louder?

In my case, I was constantly having to adjust my speed in the truck to get it to “smooth out." I would hear them say inconsiderate things like, It’s a truck, it’s supposed to ride rough! ..or just general assumptions that as the driver you "don’t really know" (especially if you are new to the company), or they will revert to , “Oh my mechanic would have found the problem already if it was a real concern.” In this case, eventually the truck wobbled worse and worse until it was taking out tie-rod ends, shaking the drive lines, breaking shocks, and “Intelligent” people were guessing driveline, guessing unbalanced tires, guessing this and guessing that!

The owner wanted to switch the truck to super single tires and in the process of having the original duals changed they said, "oh, the shaking is still possibly the new super single tires." Of course the first set they put on was old junk yard tires.. we drove those and then someone realized .. oh!!! And they replaced with new tires, and then shocks were replaced (one was completely apart), and then rear driveline was replaced, and the tie rods went out.. Can anyone guess what the problem really was? From the very first day I drove this truck it had started shaking out on the interstate, and I relayed that info to the right people. Then I found out they had let another driver go prior to my being there, all due to the same truck and the same problem.

I picked up this Peterbuilt in Mobile after the tie rod ends were replaced but the shaking and wobbling was still so bad, as I drove over the Mobile Bay on 90, I was bewildered at the simplicity of those that said, “oh we shook the (right front) tire in the shop and it was ok..” -wonderful people though. I determined I would try to make another run in it and as I headed north up Interstate 65 and on the long bridge over the Tensaw, and Mobile river, I got called on the cell phone by the person who had dropped me off and was following beside me; they related "that the right front wheel is shaking and wobbling so badly it looks like it is going to come off of the truck!!!"

I had been told to drive this truck for over a month with this problem. My better senses said "don't keep driving it", and I turned around at exit 31 and took it back to Mobile. (I mean I was feeling it could let go and send me over the side at any second!) I made a decision then and there it was NOT SAFE to drive this rig any longer. THAT basically ended my employment. My parting comments were to the truck owner, “I parked your truck at the terminal, and I will stake my driving career on the fact that this truck has something bent or broken in the right front hub, either a bent spindle, cracked or broken bearing, race, or hub casing that only shows up when the truck is driving and under road weight and pressure.”

A month later I had not heard back from them and I left them a message I was moving on and leaving them. I heard later they re-assigned the truck. It is only there own fault if they repeat the fiasco of the experience I and the driver before me had. The way they could have handled this much better would have been to listen to an experienced driver, and look where he said look, and perhaps take some serious thought! In this case, it was documented that the truck had been in an accident with that right front wheel running into and over a passenger car. (that should have made them aware by itself) And finally they should have shut the truck down the first time that the driver said it was not safe to drive until it was fixed; as well as given the driver another truck that was safe to drive: A note to remember is that this truck was already embroiled in controversy of safe operability, and it never should have been allowed to effect my driving career. (You know I DID feel like they were trying, but just NOT the right way!) At that point I guess I should have considered becoming an owner/operator. :)

Sometimes, just like in any other job, a driver is adversely effected by another's incompetence, or lack of experience, or bad decisions. You should try your hardest to never get in a spot like this where it’s your word against theirs, them being the owners, for you will lose.

This being said, there are ups and downs in this business. The compensation does go up for higher credentials, extra endorsements etc. The more you give (or give up), the better the pay. In the case of the above situation, though I was doing some pretty phenomenal things to make an impossible situation work as long as I could; I was and still am an excellent driver with a very safe driving history.

A few months later also I found I was not getting responses to my efforts to re-enter the tanker field. It was a previous employer that eventually advised me to go to the FMCSA and ask for an intervention. I did so and they intervened to keep my record clear. Sometimes the government can and will step up to bat for the individual. In my case I was thankful not only to them but to the employer that advised me to do so! At least for the near future I am employed happily with them, and close to home as well each night.


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