My trucker nightmare scenario happened last night. I noticed a weird minor clunk sound/feel when I would apply the breaks, and made a mental note to tell my boss that we should make time to have it looked at in Chicago, or possibly when I get back to L.A.
Every thing seemed normal as I blew passed the Halloran Summit brake check turnout before the long drop in to Las Vegas. Since I was in no hurry, and while not real heavy 68k lbs +, I was heavy enough, so I decided to drop in to 12th gear at the very top, before the down slope even began though I was only going about 55mph cresting the rise. I braked firmly to get my engine rpm's low enough to rapidly drop to 12 gear, and then I intended to immediately, drop again to 11th gear which is my usual descent gear for that drop at around that weight.
Upon breaking, that disturbing little clunk, turned into a startling big clunk, with a decided pull to the left. I reapplied the brake, wanting to down shift to at least 10th gear A.S.A.P. In a matter of a second or two my air pressure warning alarm triggered as I was able to drop into 12 gear, but even as I shifted my brake peddle drop to the floor and I knew I had a serious problem, I was at the top of a roughly 8 mile 6% downgrade with no brakes, my only out was a runaway truck ramp and a big decision 4 miles ahead. As soon as my engine got the air pressure passed 70psi and I had some air pressure for breaking I applied as much pressure as I dared, and was able to drop into 12 gear before losing all my braking air pressure, and once more my brake peddle hit the floor.
I was in the truck lane with a break in the Friday night Vegas traffic so I was able to get around the truck I was running up on, while checking on the next lane in my mirror it was obvious that all my wheel hubs were already smoking from the friction, which means among other things that whatever pressure I apply will be less effective due to the heat glazing between the brake shoes and hubs.
By this time I was chalked full of adrenalin, and my mouth was so dry, I knew that I had to make sure that I was thinking clearly, and not make any mistakes, as I had already run out of wiggle room before I even started down hill. I let my air system build up to 100psi trying not to think of the speed I was also building. I had to get down to at least 10th gear if I was going to be able to maintain control of my rigg, and save my very scared ass.
At 100psi I got back on my brakes and as I slowed to just under 55 I was able to drop from 12th to 11th gear, and the extra rpm's from the engine braking helped to build air pressure fairly quickly, I instantly built up speed to my engine's redline at 20k rpm.
I was at my moment of truth, if I missed my next down shift, and could not get back in to 11th gear, I might not be able to get into any gear and that would mean I was dead, the only choice left would be if I had the guts to leave the roadway at a place where I would not harm anyone in my immediate area. Again at 100psi I braked as hard as I could, and used my "splitter" switch to drop into 10th. I hit the switch, revved my engine and dropped my eye to my rpm gage which would be the first indication if I caught the next lower gear.
I was very relived to see my rpm's shoot up from about 18k to 25k and with that confirmation that I was in 10th gear, and due to the thinning traffic (it as just after 11pm PST) I just needed a little luck, and no dumb-assed moves from myself or any of the remaining Vegas runners.
I was still a couple of miles from the halfway point, and the emergency truck ramp, but due to the very high rpm's I was able to build enough pressure in order to feather my brakes as efficiently as possible to slow my truck enough to not go much over deep in the red zone 25k rpm's, my actual speed between 65 to 75 mph. I made the decision not to take the truck ramp, not knowing if it was a bad decision for about a half mile when I would make the last bend and be on a straight line of sight to State Line and the traffic between me and the flatlands just before the Nevada boarder.
I got around the corner and there was nothing in front of me for at least 4 more miles, my only worries left was the possibility of my smoldering brake hubs lighting my tires on fire, and the extra thrill of multiple blowouts at high speed with a fiery death thrown in for laughs.
There are moments when I actually miss being a cube-rat.
Sent from my iPad
Profile InformationName: Dicky McFuck-Face.
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Home country: Really?
Current location: Manhattan Beach, CA
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 9,889