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Truck Accident: Failing to Keep it Together

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Hamilton, ONIt happened in Canada and no one was killed, but the truck accident could have happened anywhere and could have been far worse.

Semi trucks. Tractor-trailers. The big rigs. They're the giants of the road, behemoths weighing hundreds of tons sharing asphalt with cars weighing a fraction of that. Those cars are getting smaller, what with the fuel crisis currently gripping the nation. And as the cars get smaller, the rigs get bigger as haulers try to pack more cargo into one trip. Multi-unit tandems—a truck pulling two trailers—seem to be on the rise.

Truck AccidentMuch has been written about the relationship between the small car and the large rig on the same road, and the dynamics that come into play. The health, and experience of the driver; the speed of the truck; the stopping distance required by a load weighing several hundred tons; the condition of the tires; and ultimately the wisdom of having large trucks and small cars sharing the same road in the first place.

But what happens when a tractor-trailer semi, or a tandem—comes apart?

That's what happened on a busy freeway in Hamilton yesterday, and the results could have been tragic. But the truck driver whose own rig took the impact of the runaway trailer believes that angels were watching over him, as well as the other cars on the road that day.

Here's the story.

A truck hailing from Hanover, Ontario was hauling an empty scrap metal trailer northbound along Highway 6 toward Clappison's Corners when the trailer somehow detached from the truck cab and veered, out of control, across the northbound lanes of the busy highway.

Miraculously, in spite of heavy northbound traffic, the runaway trailer failed to hit a single car as it drifted across the median into the southbound lanes and slammed into the trailer of a rig coming the other way.

Thomas Walker, a hauler from Virginia, was on his way to pick up a load in Stoney Creek when he saw the runaway trailer coming right for him. According to a report in the Hamilton Spectator, the heavy trailer brushed the door of Walker's cab before slamming into the empty trailer directly behind, peeling the trailer open like a 'can of sardines,' according to the newspaper report.

The impact spun the runaway trailer around and it proceeded for about a quarter mile back down the hill from whence it came before finally coming to rest beneath an overpass.

Police told the Spectator that only sheer luck prevented the runaway trailer from causing death or serious injury. The accident happened along the busy highway at 10:30am August 13th.

The runaway trailer was used for hauling scrap metal, and therefore would have been robust in terms of size and weight. It somehow became detached from a truck owned by Bill's Scrap Service, of Hanover.

"I was just driving south heading for the 403 and all I saw was the trailer a-comin' at me," Walker told the Hamilton Spectator. He credits the intervention of angels looking out for him, and the others on the highway.

It could have been far worse. The scrap metal trailer could have been loaded at the time. The runaway trailer could have mowed down cars traveling northbound, rather than miraculously rolling across the heavily populated northbound lanes and hitting Walker's southbound truck, then remaining in the less-traveled southbound lanes before stopping.

"It was a miracle, given the time of day and the heavy volume of traffic that we normally experience here," Constable Paul Potter of the Burlington detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police told the Spectator.

For his part, Walker is grateful the trailer hit his truck, and spared other motorists.
"It would have really been bad if it had been a bunch of small cars instead of me, I can tell you that," he said.


Accidents such as these serve as a wake-up call for increased inspections and better policing of an industry that, by virtue of the sheer size and weight of its haulers, has the capacity to generate carnage on the highways. In a perfect world, morphing trucks and shrinking cars would be segregated. But that's not reality. Thus, trucks should be maintained in top condition, loads should be well secured and within safe weight parameters, drivers need to be alert and constantly on their game.

The alternative can be tragic, and most assuredly vetted through the courts of law, no matter where the accident happens.


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