Windward Ho!

All truck drivers must face driving in the wretched wind at some point in their career. I definitely hit strong winds during my training pretty much everywhere I went, but some places are way worse than others. Some places are known “Wind Tunnels.” Like when I’d come out of the shelter of a mountain canyon in the Southwest, hit the open road, and WHAM! I’d be smacked by a crosswind that would blow me into the other lane if I wasn’t careful. My only warning would be the lone windsock on the side of the road, at the very end of the mountain, sticking straight out looking like a backwards megaphone. There’s little room for error, and you’d better have both hands on the wheel, or you’ll end up thousands of feet down the mountain at the bottom of the next canyon. I’m not joking one bit, and this is only part of why I hated driving in the mountains.

Interstate 80 in Nebraska is one of the worst Wind Tunnels out there, and that’s what I drive every night since I started driving solo in April. In the first two weeks, I had to face 40mph-plus wind gusts that blew me into the other lane. I was so glad that I was driving at night, and that no one was on the road with me. My Lane Assist went off so many times that I lost count and then just ended up shutting it off because it was so annoying. I had 37,364 lbs on the way out to North Platte, and 37,455 lbs on the way back to Omaha, so I was confident that I wasn’t going to get blown over– at least not easily, or right away.

The next night however, there were still strong wind warnings, and my load was only 4,655lbs. One of my coworkers who also drives to North Platte and back had 7000+ lbs. He made it out to the Platte River by Ashland before he got whooshed right off the road before he turned around and headed back to the Terminal. I met him at the Gate, heard his account of what the wind conditions were like, and said, “No fucking way am I dealing with that in my first two weeks of work.” So I turned right around at the legal U-turn spot and refused my load right then and there.

If I get into an accident, or blown over, it’s my own fault according to the Safety Department. It’s up to me to determine the safety level of my run for that load, end of story. I have to factor all of the variables into the Wind/Weather equation, but the biggest ones are definitely wind speed and how much my load weighs.

So when I was in Aurora, NE, at the Love’s Truck Stop, another one of my co-workers called me and told me to stay there because it was worse up ahead. I didn’t think twice about planting my sorry and very scared ass right in the fuel line. I had gritty dirt in my teeth and oily, fuel covered rocks in my hair from when I was fueling up. After fueling, I climbed back into my very light Day Cab, and sat there while the wind rocked me from side to side.

But then it got worse. Way worse. All of a sudden, I was lifted up, off of the fucking ground by 70+ mph wind bursts. There was even a truck on the side of me, which offered a tiny bit of protection, but not enough to keep me on the damn ground. My eyes were popping out of my head, and other parts were pretty puckered up, if you know what I mean. I don’t remember how much my load weighed that night, but I do know that it was my co-worker’s birthday, and she literally thought she was going to die out there. Not kidding. Right on the interstate, with no protection, on the side of the road, during that 70+ mph wind storm. On her damn birthday, no less.

The worst wind storm so far, and by far, was an 1850-pound special order Just-in-Time load. I only got to York, NE before I called dispatch and said that I could see that some horribleness was coming straight at me. I thought that if I turned around quickly, I could get back to Omaha before it caught up to me. Um, no. Wrong guess, minus five. Another one of my co-workers who was ahead of me called me and told me that she was on the back side of the storm, and that she had pulled over on the side of the road for a bit. She told me to pull into the Petro in York and stay there. The storm was moving so damn fast that it would catch up to me from behind and blow me over for sure because I was running so light.

I heeded her advice, and her experience literally saved my job and possibly my life. I pulled in, and there were no legal spots available, so I made an illegal spot for myself at the end of a row of trucks, really close to another truck for the greatest amount of protection for my Trailer. However, my entire Tractor was still hanging out in the direct wind, which I couldn’t fix or change because of the way the other truckers had parked. It just had to be good enough.

Sure enough, my co-worker was right. In no less than 5 minutes, the wind started rocking my tractor from side to side, and I could see the dusty wind gusts that always come before the rain starts. The lightning was less than a mile away and completely filled the sky, creating a blinding and unnatural daylight for seconds at a time. The thunder was deafening and happening simultaneously alongside the lighting. It was close, and we were definitely going to get a weather smacking like no other.

As the wind ramped up to 75+ mph, I realized that I was so damn lucky that night to have a Loaner Truck, which was a sleeper cab instead of my usual day cab. This adds another 1500 or so pounds to the vehicle weight, which can only be up to 12,000 pounds for the tractor. So just think about that for a minute. My almost 12,000 pounds of weight was getting blown from side to side, a good 30 degrees or more, onto each side. I felt like I was driving a tiny Tonka toy truck, and my fate was up to my brother, who always ended up crashing his trucks just for the fun of it.

The rain started cascading down so hard and so fast that my wipers couldn’t even keep up. Coupled with the wind, the rain looked like waves of bending, flexible sheets of solid water. This whole time, there’s nothing but huge expanses of glass and some metal between me and Mother Nature. Normally I’m good friends with Her, but when the weather is like this, I don’t want to be close friends with Her at all. I want to be as far, far away from Her fury as possible, but no such luck that night. She is the meanest, most relentless, Bad Ass Bitch on the face of the Earth. Hands down. This shit lasted for two hours, and by that time, I would have run out of DOT driving hours if I’d continued to drive to North Platte, so Dispatch told me to turn around and come back to Omaha.

Unexpectedly, right after Lincoln, I caught up to the tail end of the storm. Even though there was no rain, there was still severe wind, and I was suddenly blown onto the right shoulder. There was nothing I could do to stop it because it literally moved my trailer to the side. It scared me to my core, and thankfully, I was able to pull over at the weigh station for a half-hour to let it pass and have it get further in front of me.

I have had to stop and pull off of the road numerous times for bad wind, always under the number one priority of Safety First. I also take screen shots of the weather, just to cover myself, in case Dispatch gives me shit about my decisions, which they definitely have. Some truckers think they have to be fucking “Super Truckers” and won’t stop for anything, and I mean anything. Whatever. Sometimes I think they use weather conditions as “Dick Measuring Contests” and will call anyone who pulls over and wants to be safe, any number of derisive misogynistic names meant to insult one’s “manly” character. Again, whatever. Trucking is full of raging, disgusting toxic masculinity, but that’s another story…

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