G&P Trucking is headquartered in Columbia, S.C., operating in part out of the Ports of Charleston, Savannah and Norfolk utilizing owner-operators, the balance of the company hauling freight throughout the interior of the Southeast and other continental states.
Preston Lindsay, the driver pictured in the event above, hauls in a dedicated local lane in and around the Greenville-Spartanburg metro area in S.C. This particular accident occurred on I-85 heading east, Lindsay says, in a relatively well-populated area. The other driver “was trying to make a move to the middle lane” as another vehicle merged into his lane off an entry ramp.
Lindsay was rolling in that middle lane with a car “in the far lane to my left” and “traffic bearing down from behind.” In short, there was little he could do as the truck driver slightly ahead “put on his signal and came straight on over onto my vehicle.”
In retrospect, says Lindsay, “I could have still hit the brake hard, and it would have been up to that person behind” to do the same. At once, he adds, “I don’t think I had time enough.”
Running down the list of extenuating factors in his review of the accident takes quite a while longer than the second or two it took to happen, after all, illustrating the instincts professional drivers must be able to call on to avoid making things worse in such circumstances.
“You don’t have time enough to run down all those things,” he says. “All you can do is react. I knew I couldn’t go to the left lane, and I was thinking about the people behind me bearing down.” Honking the horn and flashing his lights, ultimately, he says, alerted the other driver ahead to what he’d done, though he didn’t immediately admit fault or even that he knew he’d hit Lindsay.
G&P Safety Director John Billingsley says the company’s “seeing more and more of these types of collisions – where the other driver wouldn’t admit to something initially. We’ve instructed our drivers to mention” the cameras. G&P’s got about 270 of its 350 company trucks outfitted with onboard driver- and road-facing cameras like the SmartDrive cameras that captured this incident.
“One of our drivers taught us not so long ago to say that,” Billingsley says. “He had a similar incident – somebody ran right into the side of him. The guy got out and said, ‘It’ll be my word against yours.’”
The G&P driver: “No, it will be your word versus the camera in my truck.”
He admitted, eventually, Billingsley says.
The company also uses incidents captured on camera as conversation starters. About items of discussion from this one, Billingsley says, “We’ve coached, ‘You probably don’t want to be side by side with a vehicle while a car’s entering the highway.’ We don’t want to be involved, regardless of who’s at fault. When drivers keep all that in mind, we reduce risk.”
The total number of accidents has not declined since installing the cameras, but, says Billingsley, “severity has gone way down,” though he hesitates to say it. “I’m a safety guy, but I’m also a tad superstitious.”