Suspecting load tampering, car hauler Marc Pogrebneak vows renewed pre-/post-trip vigilance
On May 9, after an afternoon loading cars in Shreveport, La., driver Marc Pogrebneak wheeled over to the Petro off I-20 exit 8 for a quick shower, dinner and a call to his wife. He was set to roll into West Texas to stage near his load’s destination, and after a walk-around inspection of his truck, he set off. All seemed routine.
But when he made his destination and got out to do his post-trip, he realized he’d experienced something he felt couldn’t be the result of simple human error or mechanical failure — his suspicions are of tampering.
A safety pin securing the rear upper deck of his trailer had been pulled, and the circumstances put responsibility for the damage that resulted solely on him. He was sidelined from what amounted to a “dream driving job” as far as he was concerned. Fortunately, he’d been taking pictures of his loads as a self-instruction tool in the complicated business of car loading. After he presented photographic evidence of the pin’s proper placement prior to embarking on his trip, his carrier put him to work in the back office. But his hope for a quick return to a truck was slim.
At issue were two badly damaged autos, a brand-new Chevy Silverado and Cruze, that were partly crushed under the weight of cars on the back deck.
All in all, Pogrebneak says, the cargo claim “cost them $60,000,” and he adds he takes several lessons away from it, chiefly to take every safeguard possible to prevent tampering with the load. Pogrebneak had left on the power switch to the PTO that operates the trailer’s hydraulics. “If I had that switch off, there’d have been no power to the back,” he says, and no way for anyone to pull the pin.
“This brings my awareness up higher,” Pogrebneak says. “Every time I stop I will check every inch of that truck.”
For others, he notes, “It doesn’t matter if you’re pulling cars or dry vans. I saw something happen three years ago in Abilene, Texas. I saw a guy who lost his trailer after someone pulled his kingpins.”
Fortunately for Pogrebneak, his fleet manager recently told him they wanted him back in a truck. “It’s starting to get positive,” he tells me.
No Apology Campaign revived
It is more proactive attitude than reactive defiance, owner-operator Tim Philmon told me as part of my research for this month’s cover story took a tangential route. Philmon’s No Apology Campaign can be thought of as a personal clarion call for owner-operator solidarity in hard-nosed independence — necessary, he contends, to succeed in a time of unprecedented low economic prospects, cultural hurdles and regulatory upheaval. “Being a small business in the trucking industry in an economy unlike what I had ever experienced,” starting back in 2009, says Philmon, “I began to become a little concerned. As I began to look around at what was going on in the country in terms of small business and what our own government was doing to hinder it, taking over so much in the private sector, I knew that for me to survive in the trucking industry I had to come up with a new plan of action.” Philmon pledges no apologies for 1) keeping what he’s made on the strength of his success or 2) not lowering his standards or compromising on his core beliefs, whether religious or, more pertinent in this case, related to business. His rallying call can be found in full in the Independence Day entry on the Channel 19 blog: www.overdriveonline.com/channel19.