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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Slow Motion Terror Ride with Art!

Me on the left with Ken on the forklift!
Back in the 90’s, before Lowes bought them out, one of our customers was Eagle Hardware and Garden, a chain of home improvement stores based in Seattle. We had a contract to do the curbside home delivery of building materials and appliances to their customers.
The delivery trucks that we used were day cab tandem axle tractors pulling 32 foot curtain-sided flatbed trailers. Attached to the back of the trailers were forklift trucks that were needed to offload lumber and building materials to the curb.
As you can imagine, with the 8,000 pound weight of a forklift hanging off the back, these trucks handled very poorly in wet or slippery conditions! Especially if you didn't have a load on the trailer. Because we also delivered and set up appliances for Eagle's customers in their homes, we had a helper along with a driver on each truck.

One winter day, one of the helpers was sick so I had to ride along with Art, who was a regular driver for us servicing customers of the four Eagle stores in the Salt Lake City area. We went to a store in the morning, loaded up and proceeded to make the local deliveries scheduled for that day. There was a snow storm forecast to be moving in that afternoon, so we wasted no time in trying to get our deliveries completed. Our last stop of the day was a few miles north of Salt Lake in a fancy neighborhood located on the “benches” of the Wasatch mountain range. There were some pretty steep hills in the area and it took awhile to find the address. As we were inside the house doing an appliance setup for the customer, it began snowing. After finishing up, we went outside to find the streets and sidewalks covered with an inch or so of the white stuff.
We got in the truck and with Art driving, we started to make our way out of the neighborhood and back to the freeway. We turned a corner and were suddenly headed down a very steep hill on a residential street that was not very wide, lined with trees and mailboxes and a couple of parked cars.

Although we were only doing a couple of miles an hour, we both seemed to sense it at the same time. The weight of the forklift on the back was actually starting to push the trailer sideways! We both looked out the mirrors at the same time and Art proceeded to take action while I started looking for something to hang on to! Of course the first thing he tried was the brakes and counter-steering, but immediately, he knew that was just going to jack knife us. So he came off the brake and floored the throttle. I was looking out the mirror and the truck was starting to straighten out but now our speed was picking up and it was a long way to the bottom of the hill. As soon as he could get straight, Art jammed on the brakes trying to scrub off speed until the trailer started coming sideways again, only this time to my side. Floor throttle again, straighten out and hit the brakes! I was hanging on wondering which tree or mailbox and how many we were going to take out when I look a little further up and Holy Crap! There’s a minivan full of kids with a woman driving it, coming towards us! I look out the mirror again and see the trailer coming to Art’s side again. I'm thinking "Oh God, we’re going to take out the minivan"! 
Everything seemed to be going in slow motion. I remember having the thought “How are we going to explain this?”

Art mashed the throttle again and the trailer straightened out just enough to get by that poor woman. She was stopped and I'll never forget the look of terror on her face with her mouth wide open as we went by. Finally, the hill started to level out and Art was able to make a left turn as we were sliding through an intersection! During the whole ordeal, we never said a word to each other (I certainly wasn't going to distract him!).

After he got the rig under control, I practically punched him on the arm and asked him where the “heck” he learned to drive like that? His response was that he was an old log hauler and had to handle trucks coming out of the woods on slippery and hilly trails. I've always considered myself to be a skillful driver but that was one fancy piece of driving he did that afternoon. 

I think that there is very few that could have come out of that without an accident! I don't know if I could have. Tip of the hat to Art Malcolm!

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1 comment:

  1. WOW! What a story!! It reminds me of my first year of driving school bus (1991). One day a sleeting, freezing blizzard moved in, and the streets were absolute pure ice. The bus would slide through intersections at 2 miles an hour, would slide to the curbs on the slightest inclines, and basically was the most dangerous scary insane drive of my life. I should have pulled over and waited, but I carried on and somehow made it without having an accident. Absolutely miraculous. Russ Bridger