Think Like an Editor blog by Steve Davis and Emilie Davis, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University

What we learned from a trucker

By · Friday, September 4th, 2015

We might be back at school, but we are still celebrating summer memories. One of them involves a road trip to visit family in Springfield, Mo., about an 18-hour ride.

The drive there was uneventful. The drive back not so much.

Passing through St. Louis on the way home

Passing through St. Louis on the way home

About halfway home, we encountered the dreaded brake lights up ahead, signalling to us that we soon would be coming to a stop. We did.

We thought — hoped — it would be a short delay. But then something happened.

A police vehicle sped past us, on the left shoulder, lights flashing and siren blaring.

Then another. And another.

Then a firetruck.

Then a rescue truck.

At a standstill after an accident up ahead

Then an ambulance.

Not good.

After about 20 minutes, the driver of the grain truck next to us got out of his cab and stood there, just looking up ahead.

Curious to know if he knew what was going on, we lowered the window and asked:

Do you know what happened? At least two vehicles were in an accident … there were injuries … about a quarter mile up the highway

Our pickup and the trucker reflected in his rig

Our pickup and the trucker reflected in his rig

How long of a delay? Could be awhile … no tow trucks yet … at least an hour

What are you hauling? Grits

Where are you headed? South Carolina

Where are you coming from? Wisconsin

How many hours a day do you drive? Eight

He knew what was going on up ahead because he could communicate with truckers who were close to the scene. He commented on how dangerous it was that people were backing up and crossing the median to get to the other side and away from the delay. We passed around hard candy, which he graciously accepted. He told us it felt good to stand for a while. This was his second accident delay this day.

And, then, he noticed something we had not seen. Movement.

Is it over? It was nice talking to you …

He pulled himself back into his truck, waved to us and rode alongside for a short while until we gained speed and passed him. When we reached the accident scene, it already had been cleared. All emergency vehicles were gone. It was as if it had not happened.

What we learned in that hour?

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