Training, particularly Driver Training, is one of those fields that requires supreme patience.  I had one of the best Driver Trainers in the business working for me for several years at an impound company.  It helped that he had 25 years of experience and had won several state and regional driving competitions, both light- and heavy-duty.  He did most of the training, but before I would unleash the new Driver onto the unsuspecting public, I’d try to run a few shifts with the new Driver.

 I really wanted our female drivers to succeed, so we gave them the best training we could.  One evening I was working a swing shift with one of them, and things were going smoothly when I got a phone call from one of our carrier drivers.  He was in a rural area, doing a police impound, and he was stuck.  It was almost 10 pm, and I’d been at work since 8 that morning.  Boy, did I ever regret answering that call.

Sheila and I drove out to find him.  He was 20 miles outside of town, near a main river.  Some miscreants had evidently been doing something wrong, and the County Sheriff had busted them and had their 2 vehicles impounded.  They were on a dirt road a quarter-mile from the paved road.  Another driver had the smaller car and was waiting for us out at the paved road.  He didn't want to leave until we got there.  I soon found out why.

They’d been there for about 3 hours.  The police had broken up a group of people fishing down by the river.  They scattered when the police showed up.  When our drivers arrived, the police left.  When the police left, the people came back.  Fortunately, the police were nearby and returned to find that 2 of the people had outstanding warrants.  They arrested them and shooed everyone else away.  Again, they left (which is a little odd).

The larger vehicle was a 1-ton dually pickup, with no keys.  Noone would cough up the keys.  In the marshy terrain, this made it very difficult to position and load the vehicle.  If we would’ve had the keys, we would’ve just driven it out to the paved road and then loaded it onto the carrier.  The drivers got it onto the carrier, with great difficulty, but the ground was so slick, and our trucks had highway tires, so the driver could not get turned around and probably couldn’t have stayed on the slick road anyway.

The truck I was driving was a four-wheel drive, but still had highway tires.  Sheila and I drove out the goat trail and found the carrier driver.  After a lot of slipping, sliding, and general mayhem (both in the truck and on foot), we decided that to try to get the pickup out with the smaller wrecker.  We got the pickup off the carrier bed, and then, after about an hour of throwing mud, we were able to get it onto the wrecker.  The wrecker was an Eagle, and the pickup was a dually, so the Eagle Strap went up and over the inside dual tire and the ratchet was wedged between the dual tires.  Not ideal.

The goat trail wound through a forest, was narrow, and the mud was so slick that the front end of the pickup simply would slide to whichever side of the road had a downward slope to it, EVEN if we were stationary.  What a nightmare!  We backed the carrier down the road in intervals, winching off of side trees to pull the front of the pickup away from trees when it would slide over too far.  In the middle of all this, Sheila, the trainee (bless her soul--Sheila, I hold a special place in my heart for you--if you're reading this, don't take any of this personally), continually spouted off about how she had been "four-wheeling all her life" and had been "stuck worse than this many times" and offered one crazy suggestion after another.  The winching off the side trees might have been one of them, and I'll give her credit--that worked for awhile.  But the carrier simply couldn't maneuver in the mud, which was getting worse as it got colder and damper.

Finally, I got a little momentum and made it around a couple of bends in the road, and then we came to a rise in the road, followed by about a hundred-foot passage across a swamp (not much water--just mud and tall grass), where the road had been built by dumping fill-dirt into the swamp.  The road was crowned (bad).  I made it over the rise, and about 30 feet across the swamp, and the front end of the pickup took a dive down to my left and into the swamp, wedging against a log submerged in the swamp.

That was a far as we were going to get.

The carrier driver's radio wasn't working well, and I think his cell phone was dead.  He was still back with the carrier.  I finally got ahold of him, told him to lock up the carrier, and walk out to us.  I found a knife and cut the straps off the tow truck and was able to pull away from the pickup.  When the carrier driver got there, we loaded into the cab of the truck and drove back to the shop.  It was 3 a.m. when we got back, and I spent about an hour housing mud off of and out of the wrecker.

Around 7, I called Mitch, my trainer.  I told him the nature of the mess, and where it was, and I went back to bed.  At 11, I woke up, got in my car, and headed out there.  I got a message that the pickup was out and in the storage lot, and they were going back for the carrier.  I also got a call that the vehicle owner was on his way to the storage lot to get the pickup.  I got to the storage lot about 15 minutes ahead of the vehicle owner.  I inspected the pickup--muddy, but no damage, which is amazing, because I remembered bouncing it off a few trees before leaving it in the swamp.  I wrote up an invoice for approximately $750.  The owner showed up a few minutes later, paid in full in cash, and drove it away.  I drove out to the scene, and there was Mitch, with a different trainee, loading up carpet remnants and buckets of heavy gravel they had brought to help them, onto the carrier bed, at the paved road.  They were done and ready to head back.


Have a safe and profitable week.


Nick Kemper


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