Monday, March 26, 2012

Our Fiver Hitch Fails Or Did We? A Lesson Learned

This was one of those stories I was never going to write.

To admit you perhaps failed big time is a hard thing to do and invites all sorts of criticism from all sorts of Folks, and admittedly, we deserve it.

But to not admit to ones mistakes when living Full Time on the road is not the reality we wish to relate, it's all well and fine to document the wonderful places we go and the great people we meet, quite another to show an aspect of our life that may reflect badly on our way of life and on ourselves...but, (taking a deep breath), we would not have you ignorant about the reality of on the road life and the bad things that can happen when you don't take every precaution to insure your and others safety on the road.

Thinking we had properly attached our fifth wheel RV to the truck we began to pull out of our slot at a campground and turn the corner when BAM! The most sickening sound a person can experience in a towing happened.

The trailer slipped off the hitch and landed on the box of the truck. We were in total shock. We had thought we had properly double checked the pin, and still claim to this day it was in place when we went to move, but it obviously wasn't and so it fell on the bed rail of the truck.

We were immediately joined by everyone in the RV Park, who had heard the commotion and came to our aid. They helped us block the wheels and brought over timbers to place in the bed of the truck so we could jack up the pin and lower the legs. There was a general feeling of shared despair at what had happened, and no one stated the obvious or gave us a hard time about what had happened. We thank and bless these good people to this day for their help and support.

We immediately called our insurance company and reported the accident, we also insisted on taking the truck to a nearby RV repair center to have the hitch checked for failure, as we are still not sure to this day we didn't hook it up right, the pin having jumped from its socket somehow, even though it was supposedly locked down. It was tested hundreds of times by the Techs and did not fail even once, but it was checked again and again to make sure.

We then turned our attention to the truck itself, having it inspected for twists, frame failure and such, which it remarkably did not have any structural damage, a credit to Ford Engineering, we have heard of disengaged Fivers flattening the bed and destroying the frame of some vehicles.
After being assured that the hitch was safe we went back and had the trailer checked out. It was remarkably uninjured, just a small chip in the fiberglass cowling where the nose hit the side of the box and everything checked out to being true, straight and integrated.

We were relieved and satisfied that all was well, but we had a terrible feeling in the pit of our stomachs as we hooked up and carefully pulled the Fiver out of it's spot that lingers to this day every time we begin to move. It has taught us to triple check everything and then check one more time before we move. We do an insurance backup to be sure the pin is seated and the pin lock is firmly in place.

A hard lesson to learn, even when we thought we knew better and had taken all precautions against this type of tragedy. You can never be too safe, or in too much of a hurry to check once more.

We are especially grateful this happened in the park on a 10mph road and not on the highway at 55mph. The odds of us getting out of the park before it failed was a long shot to be sure, but it would have been an even greater tragedy to have parted company with our home on wheels at speed and in traffic. The results are too horrific to contemplate.

We share this story to remind others that if you think you have checked everything out, please take the time to check again. we have since hauled over 1,000 miles since the incident and every one of those miles was haunted by our experience. Did it make us want to quit the road altogether? Yes. Did we? NO.

We are grown up people who have to face our mistakes and errors like adults, to take on the mantle of blame when appropriate and to get on with our lives after correcting our blunders.

One thing you can be sure of, we will never move our home again without triple checking the hitch, it's probably the safest thing about on our rig now, to be sure. To quote my dear husband, "Well, at least we know we won't be making THAT mistake again".

I still grit my teeth every time we first start to move out, any groan or creek sets my teeth on edge and I have to do a bit of deep breathing, but I still don't want to give up our way of life and live with the certainty that we are much safer drivers now that we have had the humility of being fallible shown to us.

There are many bad things that happen to you on the road, you have to be in a self-defensive mode every time you set out. There will be bad things that happen to you that will cause to to reassess your decision to live this way. Hopefully you can learn from it and move on with your life. The key word here being "Learning" and "Moving On".

This was a tragedy that could have been prevented by proper safety checks, most likely and admittedly we must have failed in our procedures order for this to happen. It will not happen again if it is humanly possible to do so. We are properly chastised and made humble by our error.

Just don't let this particular incident happen to you. This is why we are confessing and opening ourselves up to criticism, we want to encourage you to triple check everything before you move. Lives depend on it.

Your peace of mind is priceless and one incident can end your enjoyment of travel forever. If it does happen that you have an accident whether caused by yourself or others, try to move on and remember why you are living this way and learn from it.

Allow yourself to feel the fear, shame and horror and after a time, get over it and move on with your life with a new found knowledge of how precious and fragile it really is to live the way we do.

The illusion of safety we had in living a stationary, sedentary life was misleading and tragedy must fall to all of us in our own time, regardless of the steps we take to insure our well being or how hard we try to stand still so nothing bad can happen to us.

The alternative of just stopping and hoping we will be safe is an illusion also. Living on the road is dangerous and nothing will change that but you have to just learn from it and keep going if this is your dream, (sometimes nightmare!).

Remember that you can wake up, start over if this is the life that gives you greater meaning and fulfillment, even if you make grave mistakes, as long as you learn from them.

We thank God for our Friends, Insurance Company and the Host of People and Mechanical Techs who helped us through this crisis, it shows that Gods greatest works are evident in his People who respond when there is a need for them to do so.

Nothing restores your faith in Humankind and Our Maker more than when at your worst moment someone steps up from the crowd of onlookers and puts their hand on your shoulder, asking what they can do to help. May God return a Blessing to your helping heart tenfold and send others of a like mind to your side in your time of need.


hobopals said...

We are all human and subject to human error. I made a similar mistake with a small trailer--lapse in concentration. I'm just glad you are safe--everything else can be fixed--even bruised egos. Carry on and enjoy your lives.

You have given a gift to all your readers by sharing your experience--and though you'll most likely never know, you just may have saved some lives or at least damage to truck and fiver.

Alan and Marilyn McMillan said...

To err is human -- we are ALL human! Altho we have a MH, your post is a great reminder to all of us to be careful and take whatever time is necessary to make us safe. I have passed on your blog to friends who have 5th wheels to remind them the importance of safety. Thank you!

Kimberly and Jerry Peterson said...

Thanks for sharing...most folks will not admit those not so pleasant mishaps but that is a great way for others to learn from our misfortunes. Even though we have been doing this now for 8 years, we still have our list that we look at every time we move and we move a lot.

Keep it safe out there!

Mike and Sandy said...

Ouch! It may help to know that the same thing happened to us. But I'm ashamed that my silly pride kept me from writing about it. At least you may help others with your story; I wish I could say the same. Enjoying your blog; safe travels!

Doyle and Terri Johnson said...

Thank you so very much for your comments and support, it has actually helped me heal a great deal more making a clean breast of it!
Thank you again!
On to bigger and better things!

Geo64 said...

I found a fail safe device to prevent those accidents from happening. It's called a "Bed Saver." Blue Ox is one manufacturer. It mounts on your hitch, and should the pin not be fully engaged, or the hitch fails, it will catch your fiver before it falls on the bed rails. I have no personal experience with one, but I know when we decide which home we will pull, I'm going to install one on my hitch.

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