Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sound OFF, Part 3: Indie Trucker Calls it Quits, Goes Corporate

By Philin Phlash

A few weeks ago, I sounded off about the viaduct at Ashland and Cortland and the lack of proper signage. The reason I am concerned is because I see this problem happening all over the city.

This past September I encountered Aurelio Melchor, an independent truck driver who was passing through a viaduct on the west side, at Congress and Maple, along the south side of the 290 Eisenhower Expressway. It was early Saturday morning, and Aurelio had spent the past five hours standing by his crushed semitrailer and damaged load of tomatoes. Due to road construction, Aurelio had had to take a detour around 3AM. The bridge was not lit, and the sign showing 11-4 was not even on the bridge at all. The sign was at least 50 yards away on the other side of the bridge, crooked and not facing forward as Aurelio headed west to go under the bridge. His trailer got stuck. It broke in half.

Let's get these bridges clearly lit and the signs illuminated and ON the bridges. Does anyone at the IL Dept. of Transportation care about these truckers and the lives that are being affected? After I dropped the photos of Aurelio and the bridge off at Pipeline HQ and went to go pick up my son, Marty, from school, Alisa called Aurelio to learn more about how this incident affected his life. His words are as follows.

" I lost all my expenses, didn't make any money on it, lost the entire load, about $1200. I was six hours into my trip, headed to drop off the fresh packed tomatoes in downtown Chicago. I had to wait for the wreckers to come and then I drove six hours back to Ohio without my trailer. Insurance paid for a new trailer, but my insurance went way up. I'm 44 years old, been driving a truck since the age of 17. This was the first time I got stuck under a bridge. I live in Florida, but my pop lives in Ohio. He has Cancer, and is doing nine weeks of chemo treatments. I'd gone up to Ohio to visit pop and decided to work a bit to make some extra money, so that's how I got the Ohio-to-Chicago tomato job.

All the lights under that bridge were off, all the wires were cut off. It was such a dark bridge. After the bridge I had to call it quits as an independent. I left Ohio and my pop three weeks earlier than I'd wanted to leave, and now I work for US Sugar Corp. I've had my own tractor and trailer and been an independent trucker for 20 years. I just can't afford to keep my truck running. I was barely making it, going paycheck to paycheck. It's bad out there for all truckers, but independents have the hardest time keeping a truck going with insurance and taxes and permits. That was the end for me. The red flag went up, and I figured I will stop before something worse happens. Insurance checked into trying to get the money back from the city for the lost tomatoes, but there's been no word back. Usually the yellow signs are on the bridge. This sign was on a street pole, and it was bent because a car had wrecked the pole, according to a police officer, and the city never fixed the sign. Now, when I go under any bridge, I get a bit claustrophobic.

You can use my first and last name and my phone number if you think anyone can help me out. Sorry I was so mean when I picked up. I thought you were a telemarketer."

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