One Man’s Junk is Another Man’s Hazard

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. overloaded-truckJust 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.”



6 Responses to “One Man’s Junk is Another Man’s Hazard”

  1. Eddie Says:

    Back around 1995, I was going through Atlanta and passed from bright sunlight into a darkened overpass/tunnel. Traffic was changing lanes and a hole opened up in a lane ahead. With cars not slowing to indicate a possible problem and the poor lighting making things worse, I found out too late why cars were moving to outer lanes: An earlier accident had left a large plastic tail light assembly from a car in the middle of the road. I hit it going between 60-65mph. The 93′ CB750 bounced as if I’d hit a small speed bump and the sound of shattering plastic was horrifying. By shear luck, I managed to stay upright, in the lane and away from nearby traffic. A short way up the road, I pulled over and examined the Nighthawk’s tires, engine,etc… Finding no damage whatsoever, I counted myself very lucky and made a mental note to be more aware from then on.

  2. eddie Says:

    The above story came after a different trip through Atlanta when a semi had overturned and scattered an entire trailer load of engines bound for a GM plant. They came out of that trailer like BBs through a Coke can. Really big BBs… Luckily, they were confined in the grassy median and not in the road itself. Other stuff in the road on different rides include 10,000 PVC pip “elbows” that looked like snow in the road. Horrifying but harmless afterward was a look down at my feet while waiting at a red light on my way home with a new bike. I was stopped amid several hundred nails from a construction truck. Yikes!

  3. Joe Marshall Says:

    I’ve seen truck loaded with tree fragments (big pieces of limbs, for example), underbrush, etc., all seemingly lashed to the truck with a couple of bungee cords.

    Same question: What might happen if the truck hit a big bump? And I’ve come upon stuff in the road that was clearly dislodged from trucks like that at some point earlier. Fortunately, I saw it far enough ahead that I could avoid it.

    The best thing to do, as you say, is to leave plenty of distance between yourself and those trucks.

  4. Scrapheap, or, you can’t save them all « Memphis Auto Says:

    […] B. Goode recently found the above photo over at the Stayin’ Safe motorcycle blog, with the author complaining about how much of a hazard such a situation creates for bikers. We […]

  5. Donya Says:

    I especially like the junk and hazard photo and accompanying story. One time a ladder fell off a truck ahead of me. That thing got airborne and then slid across all five lanes. Fortunately, I was far enough back that I had time to react and avoid it. But now I stay waaaaayyy far away from vehicles carrying ladders. I’m absolutely amazed at what I’ve seen in the back of pick-ups, strapped to roofs, etc.

    But now you got me thinking…the biggest (literally) road hazard I came across one day was while I was riding in Zimbabwe on an organized motorcycle tour and came around a corner on a twisty road (with the sunset glare in my eyes) to find an elephant in the road! Fortunately, he moved before three of us plowed into him. Didn’t know an elephant could move that fast! In that split second, though, I was debating if that BMW would fit UNDER him…or maybe it was a her.

  6. Dan Says:

    Posted part of your article on my blog and inputted your link also. Great piece on road hazards. The goal of my Blog is to Infusing the thrill and safety of motorcycle riding with the collaboration of the riding community

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