Very few people truly understand the hardships of the American trucker. Hollywood portrays them as wild rebels blazing down the highway enjoying their “freedom” as they disappear into the sunset. They are running the loud and mean road machines tearing through the night, fighting to get to their destination. The truth of the matter is that over the road trucking is hard, dangerous work. As the population grows in this country, it has become more difficult just to find a parking space. Tired and weary, a driver looks for a place to stop and take a much needed break. Signs everywhere read : “No Semi’s Allowed,” and “No Truck Parking.” The trucking life is rough…little rest with little respect.Truck driving can offer some rewards, though; beautiful country side scenery, endless deserts and valleys and everything in between from sea to shining sea. I have been through all forty eight states thousands of time over. I have traveled through every major city and town and many you wouldn’t know existed. I have “hit” Canada through Detroit, and blew through McAllen, Texas on my way to Monterrey, Mexico. Snow storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, ice storms, flooding, and massive thunderstorms…those professionals within the trucking industry have been through it all! Their skills are put to the test every day, and never more so than during the season of winter.
Along Interstate 90, approximately 50 miles east of Seattle, Washington is a place that every seasoned over the road trucker knows. Named after the people of the valley to the west, it is home to about 250 residents. Bordered by the Wenatchee National Forest and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, its name means “People of the Moon.” An unincorporated town in which nearly 28,000 vehicles pass through daily. It is the main artery for the truck driving professional to get from the west to the Seattle/Tacoma area. If you happen to be there during the winter, even the most skilled driver will stop to question the certainty of making it through what is known as SNOQUALMIE PASS.
Shooting upward to a scale of 3,022 feet at the summit, you will discover why they call it the Great Northwest! You can depart at the base in sunny, 70 degree weather, and before making it to the top, will encounter rain, sleet, ice, howling winds and snow. That is, of course, you make it to the top! If you are planning on entering into the world of OTR trucking, chances are you will get to meet Snoqualmie Pass face to face.
Nestled in the heart of the Cascade Mountains, it is Washington State law that drivers must chain up before attacking the pass. When conditions worsen beyond hope, the Highway State Patrol will shut the pass down, allowing no drivers to proceed. While passing over the pass in the mid-80’s during winter, I saw many cars left abandoned and several semi rigs laying over on their sides…Snoqualmie Pass had won the battle! In the early 90’s while fighting the pass once again, they shut the pass down just minutes after I had made it through. That was the same day a driver I had seen at the Flying J truck stop that is west of the pass, had attempted to cross over before the shut down, and was killed by an avalanche. Five days later, they recovered his body.
How do you conquer Snoqualmie Pass during the winter months? After several hair-raising crossings, I figured out the answer: you don’t! For all you up-coming new drivers, just remember one thing…the freight you are hauling for the trucking companies is NEVER more important than YOU. The freight can wait. My philosophy is if you have to chain up, then you don’t need to be driving.
We are fortunate today to have the technology at our finger tips which will give us up to the minute weather forecasts as we travel this country. The “Got to go” attitude is a dangerous one. When you are fighting black ice, blowing wind and snow and you are still on level ground, what do you think it’s going to be like when you hit the 2,986 feet level that lies before you? The freight can wait. Make it to the Flying J and relax. Let Mother Nature complete Her furry, and then you can enjoy the beautiful scenery and the wonder of Snoqualmie Pass.
About the author :
Aubrey Allen Smith is a veteran over the road driver with over 29 years of experience in the trucking industry and is an expert in areas of transportation. For more information, please visit the Truth About Trucking.