What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

18 January 2017

Sudden Stop

My father has been a CDL holder since the licensing began in 1986. When the program was coming into effect, his employer handed round training materials to all of their drivers to study for the written exam. For the couple weeks before the exam date, watching the CDL training videos was a fun-filled family activity--we probably could have all passed the written exam after our intense studying.

Image source: Reddit.
One of the training videos was all about driving on steep grades, including the use of a runaway truck ramp if the truck loses brakes in the mountains. (Said ramps often slope uphill--sometimes a really steep hill if it's a short ramp--and are filled with deep gravel or sand to bring the truck to a safe stop. There are other kinds, too, with mechanical arrestors and barricades and whatnot.) Central Indiana is not really known for its mountains, so the existence of runaway truck ramps has been something that's lurked in the back of my brain for 30 years with no practical use, since driving large and heavy vehicles is on my Never-Ever list for this lifetime.

Until I drove from Cincinnati to D.C. a few weeks ago, passing through West Virginia. I saw a sign that read, "Runaway Truck Ramp 1 Mile" and of course the "useless information" section of my brain lit right up. Sure enough, it looked exactly like I'd always pictured it.

The day I drove to D.C. was also my father's birthday, so I called him that evening to tell him I was walking along Pennsylvania Avenue toward the White House, and oh, I saw some runaway truck ramps on the drive in. No prizes for guessing which one he was more excited about--he's never seen one in person, either.

"Did you have to use it?" he asked, because everybody's a comedian, and then he went on to tell me that if I used it, I'd have to be towed back out. Then he said, "You probably wouldn't have to have your bicycle towed out. You can probably just pick that up and walk out." I was about to ask how far he thought I would fly if I hit one of those ramps on a bicycle, when he added, "Of course, you're going to go over the handlebars if you hit one of those on a bike." Yeah. Wherever I landed, I doubt I would be walking away.

Anyway, like many last-ditch safety features, most of these ramps are not used a lot (thank goodness, although there's one in Colorado that's used 20+ times a year), but when they're needed, they're critical. Caltrans posted a video a few months back of one in action--you can see in the video how fast the truck stopped. It's incredible how such a simple idea as having a gravel pit as a backup plan can save lives.

What's a backup plan you hope to never, ever use?


Jenni at talking hairdryer said...

When you come visit, I can take you to see two:) The men in my car always dream about trying them. Of course they do.

Su Wilcox said...

Maybe not the highest=used one! That sounds like a scary road.

Tell the men in your family it's not as fun as it sounds--it's usually described at hitting a brick wall. And once you pay for the tow, the repairs to the ramp, and the hefty fine for using it when you don't need to, the fun meter goes down even more.