I’m always amazed by what some people manage to pile into and onto the back of their trucks, open utility trailers or in the trunks of their cars — and how feeble their attempts are to secure it all in place. Many times I think they rely completely on a length of twine, gravity and the power of positive thinking to keep their goods from scattering all over the roadway. This becomes particularly important to us folks on two wheels. Having a loose trash can fly out of the back of a pickup truck and skim across the hood of one’s car is an annoyance. Getting hit by one while riding a bike can be deadly. Just think what a vintage flathead V-8 engine such as the one seen in the photograph. I took this shot while riding in Georgia last year on my way to work with Pete Tamblyn on a Stayin’ Safe Smokies tour. Take a close look at this truck and all of the heavy guage anti-motorcycle “artillery” that this fellow is carrying — undoubtedly on his way to the scrap yard to cash in. If you look carefully, you’ll see that there are just a couple wire cables holding all of that heavy metal in place — and the only thing keeping that old V-8 engine from falling off the back is that the guy snagged one of the head bolts with the cable. That’s it! That’s all that’s keeping that thing from becoming a cast iron tumbleweed rolling directly into the path of an unsuspecting motorist.
A few years ago I was riding out west on one of LA’s freeways and found myself following an overloaded pickup truck filled with construction refuse. Suddenly a length of metal banding strap flew off the back of the truck and sailed at my head. I ducked as the metal band skimmed across the top of my helmet (had I remained sitting up it very well could have sliced my throat). When I pulled off the highway and removed my helmet, I found a deep gash in the top of my helmet that would otherwise had been my scalp had I not been wearing a helmet. That was the moment when I decided I would never ride without one on the street again. Anyway, what could I have done to avoid this situation? I think I could have benefitted by maintaining a bit more following distance when following a loaded vehicle, even if it meant that another vehicle could have slipped into the space in front of me. I also would have been better served to simply get as far away from that vehicle altogether — preferably ahead of it considering that any vehicle following may suddenly swerve or slam on brakes as a reaction to something falling into their path. I wouldn’t want to get caught up in that.
Maybe everyone who carries crap loosely in or on their vehicles should have to post a placard on their vehicles like the big trucks do when they carry something particularly dangerous. The sign should read “Hazardous Material … Especially for Motorcyclists.”