Drivers' Corner - Caring in Action

How important are clearance lights? On Christmas Eve a few years back, I was traveling to Houston for a festive holiday with my wife's family. My wife had gone ahead in our car and since I had a delivery in Houston after the holiday, I was driving my 18-wheeler. My two sons were with me and we were having a ball. I had all the usual things necessary for a great holiday. Gifts for the family and a ham that was already cooked to add to the dinner the next day. Stuff that would not fit in the car.

Traffic was bumper to bumper. I think everyone in Dallas went to Houston for Christmas. And it was one of the darkest nights I could remember. About 50 miles south of Dallas, I suddenly came upon a tractor running bob-tail. He did not have any lights on the rear of his tractor.

I shut down as quickly as I could. I went into a skid to the left attempting to steer to the right to miss the bob-tail tractor. I wound up off the interstate with only a little mud damage and without forcing anyone else off the road. The bob-tail disappeared as quickly as he had appeared. I lost about an hour getting everything back in shape and went on to enjoy a great Christmas. (I did clean the inside of the tractor, if you know what I mean.)

Clearance lights became very important to me after that. I became very conscious of my unit's clearance lights. Some things I learned:

  1. Check all lights during your pre-trip inspection. Your headlights, turn signals, emergency flashers, and brake lights are important, however, so are all of your clearance lights.
  2. Check the previous inspection report for problems other drivers might have had with the clearance lights. Make sure your maintenance department has corrected all problems.
  3. Check your plug connections between your tractor and trailer to make sure they are secure.

Bottom line: You cannot be seen without lights--so light up!