Commonwealth Chronicle

Online News Coverage of Central and Southwest Virginia

Posts Tagged ‘crash

Going inside the truck cab (Part Three)

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Steely said he used to be able to spend more time at home, but the sour economy has forced him to take to the road for longer periods. He used to spend a week on the road before returning to Nashville for a weekend’s rest. Now he’s driving for two to three weeks at a time just to make a profit.

truck

On the road, truckers do their best to create a home on wheels for themselves.

It will be a month before he sees his son again.

“I’ve missed ballgames and his life in general,” he said.

Like Steely, Pendleton has a 13-year-old son who stays at home in Tennessee, cared for by his grandmother.

But because Pendleton’s company doesn’t allow its drivers to travel with minors, she gets to see her son Dustin only when she goes home, once every two weeks. She says it’s difficult to be away from him, but they try to talk on the phone every day.

And, thanks to her trucking job, the little family that used to struggle to get by every day can now afford whitewater rafting and camping trips. But Pendleton knows she would never advise Dustin to go into trucking.

“I would tell him I would rather him go get a good education and something stable and not as lonely,” she said. “The hardest part about this is that it is so lonely.”

Steely agrees. He wants his son to go to college and get the education he never had. But his son, not put off by a long-distance dad, wants to follow in his father’s occupational footsteps.

Like Steely, Wayne Black became a trucker out of sheer love for the open road. But unlike the Nashville trucker, Black, originally a New Yorker, doesn’t find the long-haul life all that lonely. An independent man, Black goes home, but not to see family. Instead, he trades in his 18 wheels for two and hits the road on his motorcycle.

The biker tattoos covering his arms are misleading, because Black, a blood donor and pen pal to third-graders, is anything but a tough guy. He cherishes the freedom of traveling cross country, but chastises truckers who disrespect the industry. The risky road practices of those drivers — illegal parking, speeding and inattention — give trucking a bad rap, he said.

“They don’t realize they’re taking someone’s life in their hands by running down the road four feet off a little car or even another truck,” said Black.

For Pendleton, the loneliness of life on the road makes her see little future in trucking. Her heart is always homeward bound, looking forward to being with her son and her boyfriend, who recently proposed to her. Pendleton proudly flashes her diamond ring, a prized family heirloom.

She insists it’s not an engagement ring, but a confirmation of their strong commitment and devotion to each other. She tries to contain her excitement, because she’s been married before. Dustin’s father divorced her after a 13-year marriage, and she was barely getting by when she met the truck driver who would become her boyfriend. But Pendleton doesn’t only miss spending time with her son and boyfriend at their home in Tennessee.

“I miss my son, and I miss being home, but the thing that I miss the most is being able to jump in that shower anytime you want to,” she said.

Although Pendleton says she’s not a girly girl, she says she still wants to feel like a woman while on the road, which has so far proven to be difficult.

“I had my nails for a while done because I wanted to be a little feminine out here being a truck driver, but you can’t really stop and park at a nail salon to get your nails done in that big truck,” she said.

Darrell Lewis, an owner-operator who is a devout Christian first, doesn’t let small parking lots keep him away from Sunday sermons. For Lewis, his truck cab has been his home-on-the-road and Bible-study-on-wheels for the past 21 years.

Lewis specializes in hauling hazardous materials such as chlorine and paint, a dangerous job for sure, but a far cry from the days when he transported gasoline.

An accident that spilled 5,000 gallons of gasoline and ruptured his inner ear forced him into six months of rehabilitation. He tried to go back to his old job hauling loads of gas, but anxiety attacks finally got the better of him. He switched to the lesser danger of transporting chemicals.

Not risk-free, but then long-haul trucking never is, no matter the load.

“Trucking is trucking, you know what I’m saying? We all have to be safe, it doesn’t matter what we’re hauling,” Lewis said.

“We can all die whether we’re doing cotton candy or chemicals.”

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/distortedsmile/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Tractor trailer crash closes southbound lanes of I-81

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Southbound lanes are still closed at mile marker 141 in Roanoke County, Va. following a tractor trailer accident this morning. Virginia’s 511 service reported at noon E.T. that traffic was backed up for about five miles. Vehicles are being detoured onto Interstate 581. WDBJ7 in Roanoke reports that it is still unclear how long the southbound lanes of I-81 will be closed.

Virginia Voice reporter Cameron Steele was one of the motorists driving on the interstate this morning. She captured footage of southbound traffic being detoured across the median.

Later Cameron will bring you a detailed account of her experience on Virginia’s deadliest interstate. For up to the minute traffic information, call 511 or log onto http://www.511virginia.org.

UPDATE (2:39 P.M. E.T.) The left lane of southbound I-81 is now open in Roanoke County, according to a VDOT news release. The right lane remains closed and northbound traffic is backed up.

Written by beckybratu

September 11, 2009 at 12:57 pm