‘Gator Season

I-75 North of Knoxville, Tennessee

There are two kinds of ‘gators.

There’s the alligator that scurried across I-75 in northern Florida a year or so ago when he saw Greg’s headlights bearing down on him. And there are ‘gators, strips of tires strewn across America’s highways when the asphalt temperature rises in the sunshine.

They do look a lot like an alligator tail. The trailer tires are recaps, a new hat on a worn tire. And sometimes not applied well.  The temperature heats up, there’s more stress on the tire and sproonnnngggg! the ‘gator flies. That’s why drivers are supposed to check the tires at every stop to see if the tire in danger of losing a recap.

In our two years driving, we’ve only had one trailer tire blowout, about a year ago, three hours north of Dallas, Texas on US-287. When we picked up the loaded Schneider trailer in Tracy, California we were concerned about two tires. We pulled the trailer to the nearby Operating Center. The shop changed five of the eight tires, that’s a lot, but still, they missed one.

We faithfully check each tire before hooking up a trailer. If it’s a problem, flat, bald, cut, showing metal but still driveable we take it to the nearest truck stop for repair or replacement – and we’re not paid for our time to get it fixed. Remember, if the wheels ain’t turnin’ we ain’t earnin. Getting a tire fixed takes time out of 14-hour working day allowed by the DOT and we’re not paid to sit and wait. Drivers try to get the tires fixed enroute with an empty or a load.

If it’s not driveable and we had a tire like that in Washington State, we call for Road Service. While we wait, we’re not being paid and the wheels ain’t turning.

The temptation is great, if a driver suspects a tire, but it’s not obliviously flat and still attached to the “bead”, the rim, to leave it for the next driver to deal with. Tires also pick up nails on the roadways. A tire I thumped at 0400 can be well on its way to flat by 1200, punctured enroute.

The empty I dragged yesterday from Miami to Orlando had a flat. The number 7 tire, inside, rear passenger-side axle. I had it fixed at the Vero Beach TA. Our carrier fixes problem tires without a whimper. Sitting for an hour costs an hour of drivable time which is worth $1.17 to me. I don’t get that hour back. With an empty I could miss a load, with a loaded trailer it delays me from delivering and picking up the next load.

Each state’s Department of Transport has a squad of trucks and drivers patrolling the Interstates retrieving the ‘gaters. It makes sense, without them there would mountains of ‘gators in the shoulders. Sunday morning from Columbus, Ohio to Miami, Florida, 638 miles through Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia I drove and saw probably a hundred trailer ‘gators. It was hot.

Along the way, every few miles or so, a four-wheeler was pulled over on the shoulder trying to figure out how to change a flat tire. People never check their tire pressure. Daily we watch motorists oblivious to their sagging tires. Not so suddenly – BANG! a flat tire in the worst possible place.

Remember the lifesaver-sized spare tire does not last 200 miles. We see cars with a flat spare.

While you’re checking the tire pressure, check your taillights. Are they working?

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