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Monday, July 9, 2012

Trucker’s Life Turns Upside Down in an Instant!

Excellent piece written by and thanks to Dean Shalhoup of the Nashua Telegraph from Jan. 7, 2012. Link to their site is provided below.
Bob Beauregard knows roads.
From broad, multi lane superhighways to two-lane bypasses, merge-clogged urban beltways to rural, winding ribbons, they’re his bread and butter, his livelihood, almost like so many best friends who can count on each other no matter what.
A sparkling record, from logbooks to dozens of random drug tests, belies the 42-year-old Beauregard’s love of his chosen profession – “driving truck,” as they say in the transportation industry.
From long-haul overnights in an 18-wheeler to the occasional quick, interstate runs, the husky, bushy-bearded Beauregard, of Hudson, is at home in the driver’s seat, a haven second only to the cozy confines of the Hudson home he shares with his wife and 10-year-old daughter.
Everything was normal, almost ho-hum routine that Friday afternoon in early December as Beauregard, toting as always his cooler of snacks, water and sandwiches, located his assigned rig and climbed aboard for the Nashua-to-Waterville, Maine mail run. It’s a trip he’d been making regularly for a while, a route so familiar, his GPS was no longer needed.
But this night would be different. In mere seconds, everything – including Beauregard himself – would change. A man with a passion for driving truck suddenly dreaded climbing behind the wheel.
It was just after 9pm on the return trip that Beauregard, driving west on Route 101 in Brentwood, spotted a set of headlights over on the eastbound side, seemingly from a car that appeared to be heading east in or near the eastbound breakdown lane. But when the lights suddenly shone in Beauregard’s direction, the surprised trucker did a double – and triple – take.
His mind raced. A drunk driver? Someone with a medical problem?
“Those headlights were coming at me so … fast,” Beauregard recalled this week, at once sipping coffee, stroking his beard and shaking his head. “So … fast.”
From what Beauregard can recall, the next seconds were a blur of flashing blue lights and a hurricane-like blast of grass, soil and gravel, punctuated by an ear-splitting boom and a terrifying sense he, the cab and the trailer were about to tumble lock, stock and barrel into doom.
When the dust settled, Beauregard remembers looking down at a crumpled, dark green mass and thinking, “Oh, my God, I killed someone.” He grabbed his phone, jumped down and called 911. Two or three drivers were pulling over; one woman ran to the wreckage. The flashing blue lights suddenly made sense: the car was a N.H. State Police cruiser.
Inside sat Trooper Gary Ingham, his face bloodied. Fearing an explosion, passers by helped him out. Ingham’s K-9 partner, Diablo, barked from inside the twisted metal.
Instinctively, Beauregard began taking photos with his cellphone.
They show his torn-up truck, its trailer leaning, but stable. They show Ingham walking from the wreckage with two passersby. One shows a dirt ditch in the grassy median, a path apparently dug by Ingham’s cruiser as it crossed over.
In retrospect, a blessed combination of experience, instinct and sheer strength allowed Beauregard to keep the precariously tilted trailer upright, an improbable accomplishment later hailed by his boss and co-workers.
Local and state police arrived in droves, Beauregard remembers. They closed Route 101. Department of Safety officials interviewed Beauregard at length, standard operating procedure for commercial truckers after accidents.
A state trooper sped him to Exeter Hospital, where a nurse drew two large vials of blood, Beauregard said. Two hours later, the trooper sped him back to the scene.
In the meantime, a medical helicopter had landed and departed with Ingham onboard, on its way to a Boston hospital. Though he was released the next morning, roughly 12 hours after arriving, rescue personnel said later they feared the injuries were more serious, given the looks of the cruiser and the fact it hit a tractor-trailer.
Beauregard said he knew he’d been banged up pretty good, but was so focused on the hectic scene and Ingham’s well-being that only later did he realize he sustained head, shoulder and ankle injuries for which he’s now getting treatment.
But it’s another kind of injury that Beauregard is most concerned with these days. Though unseen, its effects are far more complicated than bruises, fractures and cuts.
The following Monday, he went to work at 3 p.m. as usual, heading out with the mail a little later.
“I was OK at first, until it got dark. All of a sudden my heart was pounding out to here,” Beauregard said, pulling his T-shirt 6 inches from his chest.
Almost overnight, the prospect of nighttime runs, until then his favorite, all but panicked him.
He slogged through that night, and the next day asked his boss if he could do daytime runs, or work in the yard, at least for the time being. To his relief, the boss – “He’s been great, very understanding,” Beauregard said – accommodated his wishes.
Still, the patience he was known for all but disappeared.
His fuse became uncharacteristically short; too many conversations ended in snappy answers and verbal outbursts.
One day shortly after the accident, Beauregard hit a pothole, barely a blip on the worry scale under normal conditions.
“It freaked me out,” he said, eyes widening. “I had to pull over for a while. I almost threw up.”
Then there are the recurring nightmares.
“I keep dreaming I’m flipping over. I wake up sweating,” he said quietly.
He has begun counseling, a world altogether unfamiliar for a man with a perpetual smile and upbeat personality.
His family understands. They give him space. Naturally, they worry incessantly.
“Nineteen years. I’ve never had anything like this happen,” Beauregard said. “I loved to drive. Now I have zero desire. I work because I need to, my family depends on me.
“I hate this. It sucks.”
Dean Shalhoup’s column appears Saturdays in The Telegraph. He can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 31, or

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