The Associated Grocers driver was killed in the wreck. Speculation was that he had had a heart attack or passed out. Whatever happened in the cab, what happened outside the cab is that his semi drifted to the right, broke through the guard rail, and then went off the road at high speed. Unfortunately, the point at which he left the freeway was the 19th Avenue overpass. He flew off the overpass and landed on a United Metro dump truck that was sitting at the stoplight down below. I suspect that the U/M driver was killed as well; catching 40 tons in your lap is beyond the abilities of most truckers (maybe not all, but most).
I had an unusual perspective on this accident, because when it happened, I was hand-unloading boxcars at the Associated Grocers' warehouse. We stacked the goods onto pallets and forklifts would stack the pallets in the warehouse. But that isn't the subject of today's article. I was pretty new at AG; I didn't know the driver but several of the people I worked with knew him well. There was a lot of discussion about how the wreck happened and how we all had to be alert all the time.
A few months later, I had started working for United Metro. The company released a report on the accident and its causes and how drivers could avoid such things. Really. Avoid falling trucks. The report actually suggested that the driver bore some of the responsibility for the wreck; he should have been watching the freeway overhead...he could have driven out of the way. Yes, they did.
I gotta tell you...I was a professional driver for more than 45 years and at my very best, I don't think I could do anything more than create a mess if I saw a semi coming through the guardrail above me. I don't think that anyone would reasonably believe it was possible, either.
So why did the U/M safety guy come up with that kind of stupid? Simple. If the company can prove the driver who is involved in an accident is in any way contributive, they can start the process of denying full responsibility for any lawsuits or claims resulting from the wreck. Company trying to cover its butt. I can understand that...but come on!! Dodge a falling truck? Do you have any idea what it takes to start a truck moving? Oh well. It's the nature of the beast.
Some companies are honest, honorable, and absolutely upright. Some are shady and bear considerable watching. Further illustration? Sure:
Two wrecks involving water trucks. Water trucks are heavy and are usually busy, flying from job site to job site; spraying dirt, washing roads, filling equipment that needed water, spraying the dirt again, and so on. In one incident, a water truck was T-boned by a lady in her sedan. The problem is that the truck had run a red light because he was going too fast and couldn't stop in time. The bosses' immediate response was to find out everything they could about the woman in hopes there would be something to use against her. They found that she was deaf, so a huge effort was made to put at least part of the blame on her. They wanted the fact that the deaf woman couldn't hear the truck's horn to be a contributing factor to the accident. See?
In another water truck wreck, different company...same high speed road and same situation, the water truck couldn't stop (I think he was asleep, too) and ran into the back of a van that was sitting at a red light. The van was blasted across the intersection into a light standard. The force was such that the driver's seat was torn off its bracket and wound up in the back of the van, with the hapless driver still attached. He was an Air Force Major and had his wife and a couple of small children with him. The owner of the company called me immediately and told me to go to the hospital and contact the Major or his family and let them know that we would do whatever was needed to make things right; all medical and damages and everything would be taken care of. Then he told me that we would not fire the truck driver until the investigation was complete. He wanted to make sure the driver didn't leave town until everything was settled (believe it or not, a lot of folks use the "skip town" solution to accidents).
Two very similar wrecks; two very different approaches to handling them. Unfortunately, too many companies are more interested in the former than the latter.
I do understand that companies have to watch the money flow, some employees will rob you blind, in one way or another...a verse from the folk song about Pretty Boy Floyd says something like:
"Yes, as through this world I wander, I 've seen lots of funny men
some will rob you with a six gun, some with a fountain pen."
The point of all this is that integrity is a waning trait. Honesty is hard to find in businesses. Honesty is not situational; it is not flexible. You are or you are not. Mostly honest is like partly pregnant. We see the lack of it everywhere and it seems to be accepted nowdays that "you can't be totally honest ALL the time". Well...yes, you can, and should...otherwise you are dishonest and not deserving of anyone's trust. Sound harsh? Gonna throw the old "Do these pants make my butt look big?" defense at me? I ain't buyin' it. Stand up like a big boy and come up with an answer that is truthful but kind.
I want to thank the State Department, DOD, the office of the President of the United States, the IRS, the Senate and the House of Representatives, and many others we see in our lives every day for the inspiration for this piece.