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Old 10-12-2010, 05:29 PM   #1
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Safety Alert - Front-engine rig with driver's door

I had a sobering "learnig" experience on our recent trip and thought it worth sharing. It's specifically related to the truck-stlyr driver's door on front-engined rigs.

Our rig (see sig) is relatively new to us and I'd only used the driver's door once before last week's trip. We were overnighting in Ridgefield WA on our way to the Oregon Coast. After I'd pulled into the space and switched off, DH said "You're off the pad on the passenger side and real close to that picnic table". I said I'd get out and check, since I wasn't sure how I was lined up with the hook-ups. Since she was preparing for putting the slides out and setting up the house, and both Labs were milling about in the house, I decided to get out the driver's door.

I opened it, got out of the seat and stood on the door sill. The plan was the standard egress - left hand on steering wheel, right hand on outside grab handle, swing right foot down to the "stirrup" step and then other foot on wheel studs and down to the ground. I missed the "stirrup".

Assumng success, I had ignored the climbers dictum "only one hold loose at a time" and was already releasing my left hand from the wheel. I started to topple out backwards and would have gone down on my head on the concrete. My head was about 8' above the ground to start with.

I quickly pulled my right leg back up to the sill and grabbed the steering wheel again, bringing my right arm back inside and grabbing the seat back.

By the time I got both feet planted on the sill, my torso was headed down a quite a clip. Judging from the bruises, my butt hit the door sill between my feet and then bounced back into the rig, so I managed to stay on board.

Both hamstrings and both calf muscles are seriously over-stretched and I have lots of bruises. We continued the trip for a few days, but I could only sit around. Fortunately the driving position was comfortable enough to drive.

When the weather turned to crap, we shortened the trip and headed home. Went to the doc yesterday and she says that, if I'd toppled out, I'd probably be a quadraplegic (or dead!). I'm now into about a 4-week intesive physical therapy regime. The therapist says the "tweak" actually pushed my pelvis about a degree out of horizontal!

Bottom line - if you use the door very rarely, PRACTICE. Stick to the climber's rule - don't release more than one of your four (2 hands, 2 feet) holds at any one time. Make sure the one you just moved is firmly planted before releasing another one.

Second bottom line - get DW trained to to drive the rig as soon as you get it, or get insurance that includes sending a driver to get you, DW and rig home.

Thanks to modern pharmaceutical chemistry, I'm on the mend and expect to fully recover. For an out of shape, non-athletic, overweight 69 year old, this was a wake-up call. I won't ever be young and fighting fit, but I'll try and build better muscle tone.

FYI, the therapist recommends always driving with your right heel on the floor and just moving the foot between the accelerator and brake pedals. Don't just dangle your leg off the seat and move the whole leg between the two pedal positions. If your foot can'be grounded, fasten a wood block or metal step to raise your foot to where it can be. He reckons there's a lot of strain on your knee and a blood-flow retriction caused by the front edge of the seat behind your knee, if the lower leg isn't grounded.
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Old 10-12-2010, 06:27 PM   #2
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Thanks for the "heads-up" Frankdamp, glad you will be on the mend instead of permanently affected by this ordeal.

Let me add another harrowing experience with negotiating the drivers' door... On my 20-year old coach, I was mounting the coach from the ground... While I was pulling myself up by the grab handle, it detached completely due to electrolytic corrosion between the two types of metal, while bearing nearly my full weight. Don't trust those grab handles with your life!

I fell onto soft ground luckily, but the results could have been much different on pavement or with a curbstone or parking barrier in play. Let's all be careful... at our age, we no longer "bounce," ...we "shatter."
Jim
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Old 10-13-2010, 05:21 PM   #3
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Hello Frank: Sorry to hear about your driver's door incident; hopefully you are recovering fully and quickly. First I might share that I was stationed at Paine Fld Air Force base from 61 to 65 and married a young lady from Seattle some 47 years ago, and yes were still together.
I too have a drivers door on our 2005 Georgie Boy 35 ft Class A. I routinely use my driver door when first getting to the campground as well as when I gas up. I must admit that when I first purchased the rig new in 2005 I was very cautious of exiting because it is at best tricky. What I do is open the door latch. Place my right hand on the steering wheel, then manuver my left hand on the outside door handle (which would be to the right of the door when standing toward the door and looking at it directly) then I manuver my left foot on the (already extended foot pedal) and then pivot on that same pedal while holding on to said outside handle. Hope I didn't confuse you. It has worked for me. If you should decide to try it please be careful and do it at a time when there is nothing rushing you... Safe traveling.... bill
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Old 10-13-2010, 08:54 PM   #4
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Bill:

Since the driver's door is an emergency exit (which can't be opened from inside if it's been locked!!), I'm not planning to disable it. After this incident, I'm giving some thought to installing a rope ladder. It would be attached to the cab floor, rolled up, between the LH side of the driver's seat and the door. It would be long enough to reach a few inches above the ground. Bailing out would be fairly simple, as you wouldn't be trying to find that "Stirrup" step for your right foot.

I looked at the other emergancy exit, from the bedroom slide window, and may put an egress rope ladder in there, too.
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Old 10-13-2010, 09:10 PM   #5
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Hey Frank...It appears that we have different set ups. My driver's door is NOT marked as an "EMERGENCY" door. I do have two good size windows so marked. One in the Living area and one in the bedroom. I have to agree if the door was not meant to be used routinely your idea of a ladder could come in very handy in case of an emergency. Let's hope you never have to use it...
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Old 10-14-2010, 06:07 AM   #6
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I prefer to use the driver's door instead of tracking through the coach... I use to drive a cab over semi tractor and this isn't much different then entering or exiting that truck. My drivers door is not marked as an emergency exit and there is a security lock on it that won't allow the door to opened from the inside when locked, but it also won't allow someone to open the door from the outside ether (security)...
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Old 10-20-2010, 04:04 PM   #7
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I just jump out. You guys are making me glad I'm still a relatively youthful 52... Sure wish that could last forever.
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Old 10-20-2010, 07:20 PM   #8
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Hey Frank, I know how you feel. My 94 allegro bay had a driver door which i used several times to get inor out. When I got a 06 allegro bay, the configuration is different. This one has two steps behind the front wheel. Well, let me tell you, when I tried to use it the first time, it wasn't pretty. I was glad no one was watching. I then and there decided that a fat old man of 65 had no business trying to go in or out the motorhome driver's door. I now use it to yell a dw when she is directing me to park or to check if i ran the wheel over something.
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Old 10-21-2010, 05:16 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimM68 View Post
I just jump out. You guys are making me glad I'm still a relatively youthful 52... Sure wish that could last forever.

I.m a "youthfull" 60 and still jump from the open door.... But I still have a hand on the grab bar ! I once fell backwards while exiting a GMC Astro, luckily I was much younger back then and the only thing I hurt was my pride !
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Old 10-23-2010, 10:49 AM   #10
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When I drove a cab over semi I had a similar incident. The outside temp thermometer didn't show freezing however the steps collected ice on them. Just something to watch out for. I still have knee reminders from that day.
Good traveling.
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