Croc's Blog

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I recall an incident a while ago the memory of which remains very satisfying even today. Four wheeler cuts us off very close, we hit the brakes, bear comes out of nowhere and cuts us off too, again we hit the brakes. Bear waves at us (I've got this), hits the lights and pulls the dummy over. One for the good guys.

I am sure we have all seen the youtube videos filmed with helmet cams. Motorcycle dummies flashing through traffic with no regard to their own safety or that of others. The chances are that the folks who are stuck in a traffic jam will feel no pain should a motorcycle collide with their vehicle, except for the damage to a panel or two they will be fine, not so much the rider. What makes younger motorcycle riders such dumbasses? I ride, or should I say rode, motorcycles when I was younger and don't recall being as brain dead as those I see screaming through traffic on their crotch rockets today, so what happened? I see the older Harley Riders moving at a reasonable speed so I have to wonder if it is the older generation that has some sense, or a survival instinct that is lacking in the younger of us.

Today while driving at a mandated speed limit and surrounded by other vehicles I first heard, then saw two crotch rockets blast by me on the shoulder. They didn't come to a sticky end that I am aware of but what can be so urgent that they have to be somewhere so fast?

Anecdotally I should mention a time way back in my Truck Driving history when I was hauling a tank around Georgia. I had been stuck in a traffic jam for the better part of two hours and Mother Nature was calling me rather loudly. I did what I had to do by opening the passenger door, standing on the step and respectfully answered the call. Suddenly a convertible, yes a convertible, blew past on the shoulder barely missing my door and going right through the stream. It took a while before I stopped laughing and the laughter resumed a little later when I saw that they had been stopped by a Cop. I received notification that I was number one as I trundled by.

I don't know why people take the risks they do but one thing I am sure of; it isn't going to change, unless it gets worse (that's a change). And it isn't just "Civilians" demonstrating personal irresponsibility; during this past week on the road we had a flat bed fly past us at 85mph and cut us off as he flew onto the off ramp. Was he worried about getting to the truck stop before us? Were we going to hold him up? We weren't even getting off the Interstate.

I said the Flatbed was doing 85, how do we know that? Our truck is equipped with the "On-guard" Collision Mitigation system. There is a sensor mounted on the front bumper and a readout on the dash. The system has a few drawbacks but basically it does a fairly good job. If we sneak up behind another vehicle and get too close an alarm sounds, its a very annoying beeping which stops when we back off. If the Cruise Control is on the system will recognize that we are closing on a vehicle ahead and slow us down a little until we are following at a safe distance and at the same speed as the guy in front.

As you can see in this picture the speed and distance of the vehicle ahead is clearly shown.

I mentioned drawbacks and I don't want to leave them unexplained. The worst in my experience is that when another vehicle passes and moves into the lane ahead, the reaction of the system can be to apply the brakes harder than is necessary. Such braking has not been too dangerous to date but it can be somewhat unnerving especially since the kind of braking it executes is panic braking, not the smooth, controlled and safe braking of a Professional (Human) Driver. It is the braking of a computer whose sensors have recognized a set of values and has no idea of what is really going on. Another drawback is that the radar sensor on the front bumper will 'see' objects ahead but not understand what they are. A road sign on a bend will appear to the sensor as an object directly ahead and the system will react accordingly. Also the system will occasionally see a bridge as an object ahead. Since the bridge is stationary and we are moving too fast to avoid it the system will only have time to beep and display a red screen with the word "CRASH" across it.

Personally I don't believe that a Computer can do my job. It cannot see and understand the nature of what is ahead. It cannot determine the value of all the pieces in the overall picture. It cannot drive my truck. However, like it or not, we have it and don't have a choice except to live with it or leave - and I ain't leavin'.

Now to the events of the last few days. Firstly a couple of weeks ago we had a problem with the truck's ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System). As it happens it is hooked into everything, so if the ABS goes out it disables the Collision Mitigation System and without the CMS the Cruise Control takes a nap too. When the ABS failed a couple of weeks ago, Freightliner found an air leak in the Automatic transmission. Once fixed all the issues went away and we became, once again, a couple of happy Truck Drivers.

Yesterday the same problem popped up again. Lights all over the dashboard, no ABS, no CMS and no Cruise Control. Knowing of the earlier problem and the air leak in the Transmission made us suspicious that the same problem might have reoccurred and we worried that if the air leak, which was only slight when it was repaired previously, became worse we might find ourselves sitting on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck.

Unlike the last time we noticed that the transmission was acting strangely. The Automatic Tranny wouldn't change down as we slowed to a stop and during acceleration the ride was jerky. So we called the Mechanics in Joplin and asked what they wanted us to do with it - remember it's their truck and their decision.

The answer was "stop in Joplin" so here we are, one day earlier than our normal 'weekend'. The truck is over at Freightliner and we are waiting for word that the work has been done.

Unfortunately we are paid to drive, not to sit around waiting for someone to repair the equipment. Sure there is Breakdown Pay but it doesn't hold a candle to actual driving pay. Still, in the end we would rather drive equipment that isn't about to break down and leave us sitting on the side of the road.

So here we sit, at home watching a little TV and tomorrow I have a whole day to fill with things that need doing around the house. For now though, a beer. A good cold beer.

Cheers everybody.

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This is an area I like to use for the occasional update of what Ellen and I are up to.

We run a dedicated lane between Laredo, Texas and Salem, Illinois with a break at the weekend at home in Joplin but hopefully it is still interesting even though we limit our travels.

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