Wild Road Service Tales: Techs Learn to Expect the Unexpected
Frozen lug nuts, bad weather and heavy traffic — these are some of the more mundane surprises that road service technicians can encounter.
But once in a while, you come across a situation that’s so odd you remember it many years later, says Clinton Smith, service truck tech for Exit 11 Truck Tire Service, which is based in Richfield, Ohio.
“When I was 20 years old, we got a call from a hauler who was delivering rental cars,” he recalls.
After unloading, the truck’s driver “ran over a strip of spikes” while exiting the lot — resulting in 18 flat tires.
Smith tracked down replacement tires, recruited his brother to help and drove to the truck’s location.
“I asked the driver, ‘So what happened?’ and he said, ‘I don’t know. I heard a bunch of air leaking and thought I had blown an airbag or something.’ He didn’t know what he’d done.”
It took five hours to get the truck up and running.
“That was a big bill!”
Another time, Smith was routed to a truck that had “a rock that was stuck between two duals.” At least that’s what the dispatcher told him.
“I was thinking maybe it was a softball-sized rock stuck between some tires. We’ve seen that before.”
The rock turned out to be a 150-pound “boulder” that was lodged between the front and rear axles of the rig’s trailer.
“I had to remove all the tires to get the boulder out,” says Smith. “And then I put the tires back on. I was not expecting to see that. The driver had run over a snowbank and the boulder was hidden inside of it. That’s how it got wedged up underneath there.”
Some road service jobs have included brushes with fame.
“I’ve done a couple of calls for the big motorhomes and buses that rock stars drive around in,” including one that belonged to classic rocker Steve Miller.
“He wasn’t on the bus,” says Smith. “But I met Phil Vassar, the country singer, while replacing tires on his bus.”
K.C. Rennicker works out of Ziegler Tire & Supply Co.’s facility in Dover, Ohio. (Ziegler Tire is based in nearby Massillon, Ohio.)
He has been a road service tech for 15 years.
“There have been a few” memorable calls, he says. “I guess the one I remember the most is when they sent me to a campground” to replace a tire on an RV.
“I called the guy who owned the RV to let him know I was on my way. And he said, ‘Just to let you know, this is a clothing-optional campground.’”
Rennicker jokes that he was the best-dressed person there!
Severe weather can present its own challenges. “A few years ago, I was out in 20-below zero temperatures. That’s pretty brutal.”
Other memorable calls have involved man-made dangers, “like drivers who don’t move over” to provide proper clearance.
“One night I had a semi go past me so closely, it shook my soul. I didn’t see it, but I felt it. It was entirely too close.”
This happened despite the fact the Rennicker had set up reflective triangles and other safety devices.
“We preach safety to our service technicians as much as we can,” says John Ziegler III, regional sales and operations manager for Ziegler Tire.
“We know it’s not the easiest job in the world. It’s tough work. We give them the most training to make sure they go home safely every night.”
Smith agrees that safety is the top priority.
When it comes to calls, “if you don’t feel comfortable, don’t do it," he says.
"Whether you have to make a driver limp to an exit or call the highway patrol and ask for a cruiser to sit behind you and close off a lane while you work, don’t put yourself in harm’s way just to get the job done faster.”