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Author Topic: My tanker truck got hit by lightening!!!  (Read 6968 times)
Sean Kelly
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« on: April 11, 2008, 06:46:04 AM »

In case ya'll didn't know, my profession is in the petroleum fuel industry and I drive a double tanker semi, delivering gas, diesel, heating oil, and ethanol in the Seattle-Tacoma metro areas.  As a truck driver, I've seen just about everthing possible on the road.  But last week I had the craziest thing happen, I was struck by lightening!!!

The day shift driver before me had a load of ethanol (denatured alcohol) on the truck/trailer which was now empty and full of alcohol and benzine vapors.  I was just coming into downtown Seattle and changing lanes to exit for the West Seattle Bridge to jump over to Harbor Island in the middle of a hail storm, when I hear a loud *CLAP*!  My entire vision goes white and I feel a instant tingling vibration go through my entire body!  My first thought was, "Oh crap, I just died".  I let off the gas, kept the rig straight, and my vision returned.  All my gauges were at zero, the engine died, and all my lights were off.  I was now coasting down to around 40 mph.  Traffic around me split like Moses parting the Red Sea.  The hair on my arms and top of my head were standing straight up like in the cartoons!  My cell phone was dead and so was our company's nextel radio.  I turned to coast for the shoulder and saw my trailer tank in the mirror had steam coming off the sides!!!
Turned the key off and back on and it fired right back up like nothing happened.  All gauges went back to normal.  Reset the Nextel and my cell phone successfully.
Now I was really lucky, here's why:  I was not grounded.  When I was struck, the current traveled around the sides of my tanks and grounded across the water on the sides of my tires.  If by chance I had a snow chain loose and dragging, that charge would have gone through the truck, zapping me, and igniting the ethanol vapors, and sending me to the moon!!!

Scary stuff, I'm glad I'm alive, thought I'd share it with ya'll!!!

Sean Kelly
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« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2008, 07:28:56 AM »

Wow!!
What an experience!!Time to run home and change your drawers!!
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« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2008, 07:33:32 AM »

You passed through the point where the lightning would have struck the ground at the instance of the strike. You are one lucky person. If the spark had caught the vapors you would have been toast.

Let me know what superpowers you have obtained. Smiley

Sincerely,
Brendhan

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« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2008, 07:54:29 AM »

I'm confused. First you say, "the current traveled around the sides of my tanks and grounded across the water on the sides of my tires."

Then you say, "If by chance I had a snow chain loose and dragging, that charge would have gone through the truck, zapping me, and igniting the ethanol vapors....."

Either way you are grounded. The electricity would follow the metal skin and discharge through the chain just as it did with the water. 
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« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2008, 08:58:08 AM »

Dude!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


...JP
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« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2008, 03:16:33 PM »

Whoa!!!

I wonder who actually saw that happen!!

Glad you are okay. Now you are LIGHTNING MAN!! afro You need your sidekick, Thunder!  grin

Love,
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« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2008, 05:55:12 PM »

cool, let me know what super powers you get too. Now I guess we really have to be careful what we say or you might zap us. grin grin
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« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2008, 09:40:10 PM »

You say you " let off the gas " I would have thaught a rig pulling doubles would be diesel powered. I guess it could be Lp powered though, Oh well just rambleing !!

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Sean Kelly
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« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2008, 02:10:29 PM »

I'm confused. First you say, "the current traveled around the sides of my tanks and grounded across the water on the sides of my tires."

Then you say, "If by chance I had a snow chain loose and dragging, that charge would have gone through the truck, zapping me, and igniting the ethanol vapors....."

Either way you are grounded. The electricity would follow the metal skin and discharge through the chain just as it did with the water. 

Sorry to confuse you and I'm no scientist.  Just a trucker.  But I was told that if I were directly grounded with a better conductor than water on the outside of rubber tires, that the strength of the blast would have been more direct and could have been devistating.  So it's my understanding that though my truck definately got some of the charge, it probably was not a direct hit.  Maybe the main charge grounded on something else and I just caught a spur or something.  Again I'm not a scientist and don't understand the physics of lightening.  Either way, the point of my post was that it was really FREAKY!

I wonder who actually saw that happen!!

I think everyone around me saw it.  Traffic pretty much parted away from me.  The engine quit working and I had no power steering, was too busy trying to steer off to the shoulder to see what everyone else was doin.

You say you " let off the gas " I would have thaught a rig pulling doubles would be diesel powered. I guess it could be Lp powered though, Oh well just rambleing !!

Forgive me for not being clear.  We call it a double tanker but it's actually a straight truck with 4700 gal capacity tank pulling a trailer with a 6600 gal capacity tank (kind of like your run of the mill semi dump truck/trailer combo).  It's a 2004 Freightliner with a Detroit diesel and 13 speed Fuller transmission.  GVR 105,000.
Letting off the "Gas" is just a figure of speach and not literal.  Letting off the "diesel" just doesnt sound right.

Sean Kelly
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« Reply #9 on: April 13, 2008, 09:56:02 AM »

Sean, oh that was your lucky day, and you can thank your lucky stars.  What a horribly frightening thing that must have been, as I was reading your story, I couldn't read fast enough to get to the end.  I actually had to re-read it a couple of times to get the whole gist of it.  Wow.......what are the odds of that happening?  It sounds like you really handled an extremely dangerous situation with the most incredible skill, good for you!!!  Sometimes in our lives some of the most incredible things happen, and we wonder how we made it through to see the next day.  I am so grateful that you are alive, that nothing horrible happened to you, and yep, you may have new superpowers that you have just not yet discovered.  What a happy day that was for you.  Have the best of this wonderful day, and may you be safe with your rig.  Cindi
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« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2008, 12:17:01 AM »

Close calls with lightening is literally hair raising--I've had lightening strike within a foot of me 4 times in my life.  I can feel your awe of still being alive.
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Sean Kelly
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« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2008, 08:21:34 AM »

When I was in one of my math classes back in highschool, we were discussing odds and discovered you're more likely to get struck by lightening 3 times in the same day than you are to win the lottery.  Well, I figure I'm getting closer and need to buy a ticket!  lol

Sean Kelly
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« Reply #12 on: April 17, 2008, 01:13:38 PM »

Now is the time to buy that lottery ticket!!! Glad you are still with us!

DennisB
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« Reply #13 on: April 17, 2008, 03:01:22 PM »

Shocking!!

 grin

They used to use shock treatment for depressed people.  You should be all set for a while!!
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« Reply #14 on: April 26, 2008, 02:26:01 PM »

that is pretty awesome Sean.  I used to work as an aircraft mech.

No huge worry about the vapors exploding.  planes get hit all the time.  So long as you are not venting the fuel tanks to the open air when emptying them.  The concentration of fuel vapors should be high enough combined with a low enough amount of O2 that no ignition should be expected.  You guys dont vent those with air do you?Huh?  When filling/emptying?Huh?

I used to see people with small wire tape hanging off the back of their cars all the time as a kid.  When I asked what it was for, I was told its in case lightning strikes the car it will be grounded and not kill the occupant or the electronic devices in the car.  After working on airplanes for a while they have similar lightning strike wicks.  Most planes have been struck by lightning once or twice.  No biggie.  Just keep cruising.....
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« Reply #15 on: April 26, 2008, 04:09:01 PM »

Please consider proper venting procedures. Failure to do so can have very ugly results.


Sincerely,
Brendhan

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« Reply #16 on: April 26, 2008, 09:09:09 PM »

That was one heck of a story.  Had two close calls myself.  The first as a kid.  Was helping my father feed the livestock at the grandparents when out of the blue a bolt struck the head of a water faucet my father had just turned off a second before. Knocked him unconscious but only knocked me down.  Felt like being hit all over with sledgehammer.  He had trouble concentrating and talking for months afterward. The second was while my Wife and I were picking up after a picnic.  A bolt hit the tree we were under and knocked us both down.  Neither was hurt.
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« Reply #17 on: October 06, 2008, 01:19:58 AM »

a little technical jargon from a truck mechanic,  let off the throttle on a diesel,  a truck that is only made to haul a trailer is a tractor,  a bobtail tanker with a trailer is a truck and pup,  glad to hear you were ok except for the color change in the shorts!
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Sean Kelly
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« Reply #18 on: October 06, 2008, 03:17:18 AM »

a little technical jargon from a truck mechanic,  let off the throttle on a diesel,  a truck that is only made to haul a trailer is a tractor,  a bobtail tanker with a trailer is a truck and pup

Gas?  Throttle?  Who cares.  Everyone understands what we mean.  Our mechanics at work correct us all the time and no one really cares.

In the tanker industry it's not a "truck & pup".  It's a Straight truck & Trailer combination.  It's not a pup since it's a full trailer permanently attached to a converter dolly which is connected to the truck.  There are pup tanker trailers but those are much shorter, fewer axles, and are usually pulled in a tractor + doubles combination.

Sean Kelly
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