The Inland Empire of California specializes in extreme conditions. Let other empires be known for milk and honey, figs and dates, etc. – we in the Inland Empire are the masters of wind and cold, snow in the mountains, thermometer – busting summers and winter rainstorms…
And so it was on a cold and windy morning that we received an assignment from one of our trucking clients. Very cold. Very windy. Our client’s driver had gotten caught in a blinding dust storm on the 1-40 just east of Barstow, California, a storm that had brought a halt to traffic until visibility cleared. He had been unable to stop in time and hit 6 vehicles, several of which had trailers containing the possessions of people in the process of moving. Several injuries were reported and our client needed us on the scene immediately.
“East of Barstow” is desert in the middle of nowhere. I was an hour away under perfect conditions and needed to leave at once.
Leather coat: check.
Four-wheel drive: check
I made great time until about 5 miles from the scene, at which point traffic started backing up. A call to the office confirmed that the freeway had been closed until visibility returned and the vehicles involved in various accidents (more than 60) were cleared. Bad news – at this rate I would get to the scene after dinner, not exactly what our client had in mind.
I was fortunate to have an off ramp appear before the road locked up entirely. I was off and onto the access road in a flash. After about 4 miles, I could make out what appeared be our trailer on the freeway to my left. I put my truck into 4-wheel drive and proceeded across the desert to the scene. Sure enough, it was our driver. I backed up to the guardrail, lay the tailgate across it and proceeded to get to work.
I did the usual – interview of the driver, photos of vehicles and trailers involved, identification and contact info for all parties. No statements were possible due to high winds and ambulances transporting some who had been injured, but with the contact info, I was able to get statements from all over the next few days.
The primary value of being on the scene was the verification of exactly which vehicles our driver had struck. Upon arrival I had been told there were 8 vehicles involved. Close inspection revealed that an RV and a big rig near the rear of the pile up were part of a separate collision, not ours. I got one of the CHP officers to look over the physical evidence with me and he agreed. This made for an accurate police report and, based on the condition of the RV and big rig, a savings of more than $20,000 in material damage alone.
A warm weather, light breeze adjuster would not have come close to the scene and would have ended up adjusting his radio dial rather than the claim.
In the world of long haul trucking through the Inland Empire, the phrase “Be Prepared” means having DMA’s phone numbers immediately to hand in the event of an accident (including the Bulletproof After-Hours Assignment Number which reaches a truck adjuster, not an answering service).