Always remember the kingpin…

This morning I did something stupid, very stupid. I was in the Laredo yard after I dropped the empty trailer I brought down from San Antonio and hooked up (so I thought) to an extremely heavy trailer bound for El Paso. So heavy I couldn’t even get dispatched until after I scaled to make sure I could take it.

Before leaving one of our terminals, company drivers like myself must fill our tanks with diesel, unless weight prohibits it. Since our company buys in bulk, fuel at terminals usually costs less than anyplace we might stop while on the road.

Now, at our terminals the scales we use to measure our weight are just past the fueling islands. Since I had this very heavy trailer that I had to scale first (to see if I could even add more fuel before leaving) I knew I needed to bypass the fuel island, scale, then go back around our parking lot to go fuel. Since it was early in the morning and still dark out, I thought I would pull the trailer up by the fuel islands, use the light there to do my pretrip, then scale, then fuel, then leave. I got as far as the guard shack (just before the fuel island area) and when I was pulling ahead to let him check the seal on the trailer I started hearing a scraping sound.

After moving forward a few feet I realized the scraping sound was coming from the trailer staying in one place while my tractor was moving forward — I was almost about to drop it off of the back of my truck! Needless to say I stopped my truck, popped the brakes and went back to take a look. Yep, I had almost dropped the trailer off the back. It was already off of my fifth wheel and resting on the very back of the truck frame.

Because the trailer was so heavy I could lower the landing gear but not raise up the front end any so we had to have a yard dog (a small truck with a hydraulic 5th wheel used to move trailers around a yard) come over and help out. After a few minutes getting into position and bumping his way under the front of the trailer he managed to get under it and lift it up, then I spun down the landing gear and we got the rig back together.

In retrospect the problem was obvious. When I tested the connection between tractor and trailer when I hooked up I didn’t tug hard enough or get under the trailer far enough when I was outside with my flashlight to make sure the jaws had clamped around the shank of the kingpin. If I had any speed under me when the friction between the fifth wheel and the bottom of the trailer gave way, it would have ripped the air and power lines right off the back of my truck and the trailer would have screeched to a halt on its raised landing gear on a street or freeway somewhere.

Another problem was moving the trailer, even if only to the other side of the yard, before pretripping it completely. I have a good-size flashlight I use when its dark, but I think I’m going to start saving up those reward points for a really big rechargeable model they have at the truckstops. I will also make certain my trailers are securely attached from now on as well!

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