I heard from “Mustang” Mike Crawford, an independent hauling loads mostly through Prime’s brokerage wing, earlier this week — Crawford’s an old contact of mine whom regular readers will probably recall from past coverage of the keep-on-keeping-on steady nature of his old 1994 Freightliner, and much else besides. The Detroit-powered unit is still going strong now up and over the other side of 3 million miles.
It was a fact he happened to share recently with a fellow driver he got into a conversation with at a truck stop counter. “We were talking about reading,” he says, generally and he told the driver he didn’t get much in himself these days. “She said, ‘I can read more now that we’ve got the thing on the front of the truck to help us stop.'”
That gave him pause, for certain. She went on, “We’ve got the lane-change thing that gives you a signal” assist when the lane is clear. “I can read going down the road.”
“I said, ‘You’re serious? Really?'” Crawford says. They were sitting at the Counter of Knowledge, after all.
The driver continued: “I can put my book right there in front of me and look down for three-four seconds and get a couple of lines in.”
That, of course, would be more or less no different than going down the road tapping out messages on your phone or Qualcomm or other messaging system in your ELD, as it were, something Crawford recognizes isn’t exactly uncommon out there, however prohibited (with fairly hefty fines for getting caught doing it) and irresponsible it might well be.
“Have you ever had an accident?” he asked the driver, finding out she had, a minor one that was indeed her fault, she admitted (though she hadn’t been reading when it happened).
Crawford wondered aloud how he’d managed to amass 3.2 million accident-free miles in the same 1994 Freightliner without being bubble-wrapped with lane-departure warnings, automatic braking and the like. He’s been known to rub salt in the eyes of safety managers enamored of driver-assist techs over this aspect of his operation in the past, and suggests that, perhaps, just maybe, it’s close attention to the task at hand that gets the job done most safely.
“How was it that I’ve been able to get three million miles accident-free?” Crawford asks. “I don’t have the lane-change, I don’t have the Vorad – how can I go accident-free without all that stuff? How did I do it? I don’t know, Todd, maybe you can explain it. How did I do it without it all bubble-wrapped around me.”
May tech piled on the driver invites the kinds of assumptions that could well lead down the road to a false sense of security: Let’s call it the bubble-wrap syndrome. Bubble-wrap, after all, is made of plastic and could easily asphyxiate you if wrapped too tight.
And, finally, here’s a simple tip from Mustang’s Truckin’ on how to avoid becoming a victim of the syndrome, applicable whether your truck is is outfitted with assist systems or not: Don’t try to read a book while going down the road.