A Heavy Dose of Irony: Nearly Clobbered by a Tanker Truck
Earlier this week I attended some depositions in North Alabama. Just your run of the mill wheels case. A couple hours after arriving, I turned around and began the return trip to Birmingham.
As a trucking defense lawyer, I have long told people I expect in an ironic twist of fate that I will be involved in a wreck with a tractor-trailer. It’s not a prediction and certainly not a wish. More like an odd, unwelcome expectation. This was very nearly that day.
While traveling south on I-65 about 15 miles north of Cullman, traffic began to slow down in front of me. I applied the brakes and checked my rear view mirror. There was a tanker truck behind me. I could already tell he was closing on me.
Traffic began to slow more abruptly. A river of brake lights in front of me. But the tanker was still coming hard. I was on the phone, using the Bluetooth. My co-worker sitting in her office on the other end began hearing, “O geez! O geez!” [Yes, I really do have the vocabulary of the Leave It to Beaver cast].
“Are you okay?”
Glaring into my rear view and watching the tanker truck grow larger, I replied, “Only if I can avoid this accident.”
“Do you need to go?”
“Yep.” It became apparent the tanker was going to smash into the back of me. I steered my vehicle off the shoulder to my left and as far into the grass as the wire barrier would allow. The tanker barreled past me, clipping the SUV I had been following and careening into the right hand lane, which was occupied by a tractor-trailer.
Now out of control, the tanker truck plowed into the trailer. The sound of tires clawing at the asphalt. Metal and fiberglass being mangled. The tanker was pushing the tractor-trailer. A flatbed truck slid into the rear of the tanker. Off the interstate, down a slight incline, and up against an embankment.
Finally, all was at rest. A cacophony of silence. Debris, tire marks, and fluids decorated the roadway like a Jackson Pollock writ large.
Slowly, the participants began emerging from their vehicles. The driver and passenger from the SUV were unscathed but shaken. The driver of the tractor-trailer was limping and rattled. The flatbed operator held his hand to his lower back and shuffled up to the other drivers. Lastly, with his cab crushed and more parts of the tractor strewn about the grass and road than still attached to the vehicle, the tanker driver crawled out.
200,000 pounds of machinery and freight engaged in a brief, frightening skirmish. And everyone walked away.
For another harrowing tale, here’s the story of the time my client’s dog contemplated making me its lunch.
Photo by Daniel R. Blume.