Trucker's Rescue during Polar Vortex Offers Lessons for All Truckers

January 23, 2014

A Trucking Miracle in The Snow

The story is the stuff of miracles. Pinned under his truck at a snowy Indiana truck stop for more than 8 hours in brutal subzero temperatures, Florida trucker Tim Rutledge was losing consciousness when his wife's panicked phone calls finally pushed the vibrating phone out of his pocket, allowing the 56-year-old long-haul trucker to call for help. (Read the ABC News account.)

You've probably heard the story. At the height of January's freak Polar Vortex, with wind chills pushing the 10 below zero temps down below negative 35, Tim crawled under his semi-tractor trailer to try to unfreeze his breaks. The truck shifted in the snow, pinning the trucker under his rig in the dark hours before dawn. Parked in a sea of commercial semi trailers at a Pilot Travel Center south of Indianapolis, his cries for help were lost in the wind and engine noise.

Vibrating in response to his wife's repeated phone calls, Tim's phone finally fell from his pocket toward his face. Using voice commands, the trucker was able to call his dispatcher who alerted the truck stop and emergency crews.

Rescued in the nick of time -- another hour could have been fatal -- Tim survived the frigid ordeal without even a mild case of frostbite. Back home in Florida with his wife, Lisa, Tim told ABC he used to think the morning check-in phone call to his wife "was kind of a hassle, but I always called her just so she knew where I was at. I won't take her for granted now. She saved me."

We can all learn from Tim's ordeal:

  • Establish a check-in procedure with your family or dispatcher so someone knows when to worry.
  • Before working on your rig, let someone inside the truck stop know. Better yet, enlist help from a fellow trucker. If something goes wrong, you want someone there who can go for help.
  • Keep your phone charged and on your person.
  • Make sure your phone has voice activation.

There's plenty of winter ahead. Be safe out there.

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