by, 07-07-2012 at 03:01 AM (1171 Views)
Two big sumps had to ship this week, requiring that they be crated and shipped Fedex Freight. To keep costs reasonable, I had to load these up in my trailer one at a time and drive them to Fedex Freight myself, rather than have a truck pick up at my location. They add charges if you need a lift gate, if you need a fork lift, if you are in a residential area, etc. My trailer has always been useful, back when I was cleaning floors, as well as during my carpentry days... plus all the remodeling I've done for the residence as well as for my reef builds. It has a full axle, nice new tires, a rack on top to hold full sheets of plywood or sheetrock, and current tags to keep it legal.
Midnight's crate was heavy (285 lbs), but I was able to get my son to help. We got it into my trailer, and drove to the northside of Fort Worth to drop it off. A nice young man came out on a forklift, scooped it out of my trailer, and after the paperwork was submitted, we returned to pick up the second crate. This was lighter, which I'd estimated at 125 lbs. Turns out it was 200 lbs. We drove back to the depot, had another forklift driver scoop it out of my trailer, and got the paperwork submitted. We headed back to my side of town, planning to dine somewhere local.
As we were coming up on the normal freeway exit that I'd usually take, my passengers were quick to warn me something was wrong. Checking my side mirrors, I could see sparks flying off the right side of the trailer, and the view in my rearview mirror told me I was pulling a bucking bronco. The vehicle was definitely mirroring the strange tug and jerk of whatever was going wrong. I watched it closely, as well as the other vehicles to my right, my left and behind. The trailer dipped down hard, and then bounced upwards, yet the safety chains were holding. I was braking and yet trying to avoid having the trailer crush my vehicle. It dipped harder, and it became obvious it tore away from the hitch. Knowing all the other cars around me were giving me a wide berth, I watched to see where it was heading -- which was to my right, heading toward and across the offramp as I steered into the median spot where the collection of water-filled barrels prevent people from driving into solid concrete.
We watched the trailer pass us by on the right side, and I'd estimate it was moving around 50-60 mph. It arced away from my vehicle, which was what I was hoping it would do. Having it slam into the side of my car would do all kinds of damage to the steel and paint, and possibly cause injury. It continued to plow nose first toward the wall aligning the offramp, and it almost seemed like it was going to park adjacent. However, with the speed it was traveling, and the angle of its path, I wondered in an instant if I was going to watch it disintegrate into a billion pieces instead. It hit the wall, rolled up the concrete and slammed down on its side.
Not a car was damaged, nor was anyone hurt. The highway was undamaged as well. Stopping the car, we all exhaled a sigh of relief. I jumped out of the car to check the back of my vehicle, which was completely unscathed. The odd thing was the trailer hitch ball & tongue was gone. All I saw was the square hole (the receiver) where it belonged, which normally has an aluminum pin bisecting it, retained with a large cotter pin to keep it there. Instead, nothing looked damaged, and the necessary pin was nowhere to be seen. Inspecting the front end of the trailer, the trailer was still connected to the ball and tongue piece, and the right tire was still spinning hard two minutes later. With the trailer being empty and not much else to worry about, my son and I seized brief opportunities when there was a break between cars driving by to drag the trailer on its side more into the open and then flip it back on its tires. It wasn't easy, but within 10 minutes it was positioned to where it could be reattached to my car's receiver. I wasn't sure what a 911 call would do, nor what a wrecker would accomplish or charge. Would AAA help? That seemed doubtful.
Without the aluminum retaining pin, I had to MacGyver a way to hold the tongue in place for the final two mile drive to my driveway. I ended up using one of the S-hooks of the tie-down straps I keep in my gear, which held up remarkably well. The rack on to looks racked, one fender got the brunt of the impact when it landed on that side, and some of the wood got skinned. We had to bend up the fender enough to prevent it from cutting into the tire's tread, managing this with a tire iron and the trailer ball tongue as make-shift levers. The trailer is safely back in my driveway for now, but will need a little more work from a local welder to resolve some of the damage.
Those 10-15 seconds as the trailer discombobulated from its connection was the challenge that I accepted instantaneously and without reservation. Rather than slam on the brakes and take out the rear door and window of my vehicle, I was able to steer clear of this rolling loose cannon, and avoided adding any additional drama to the other drivers around me. My passengers weren't frightened because I was driving through the situation as it unfolded. We should always be thinking quickly, especially in instances like these.
I'm glad the sumps were already safely in Fedex's capable hands, although I'm curious to see how they would have fared had this happened earlier today. I pack stuff carefully, but I've never seen them put through a tumbler like what we witnessed tonight. Can my packing handle an F5 tornado effect?
These big sump shipments are rare, so I have time to get this matter corrected.
After a remarkable night, we finally got some fajitas for dinner.