RJ Taylor and his big rig, "Ol' Blue" have logged
many miles on the roads of America.
Taylor has been driving for 42 years, many of
those driving Ol' Blue, a 1951 Kenworth semi-tractor.
Ol' Blue has nearly three million miles on its
Taylor still uses the truck to haul freight,
mostly in the Los Angeles, Calif. area but he mostly takes the
truck to communities all over the country visiting schools, truck
shows and any other place where he can present demonstrations
on driving safety.
Twenty-five years ago, Taylor decided to begin
his safety demonstrations.
Taylor was visiting Vandalia for the second time
late last week to present his safety demonstrations to Vandalia
area school students and to adults.
Taylor visited Helke Elementary last year.
Thursday and Friday, Taylor visited Murlin Heights
and Demmitt Elementary schools and Smith and Morton Middle schools.
On Saturday, he brought Ol' Blue to the Masonic Lodge for a pancake
breakfast and for a demonstration at the Vandalia Sports Complex
but rain washed the event out.
"Kids and adults that are not familiar with large
vehicles like Ol' Blue, fire trucks like these (pointing to fire
trucks from both Butler Township and Vandalia) don't realize the
difficulties faced by the driver," Taylor said during his appearance
at Murlin Heights Thursday morning.
"Your school bus is another example of a large
vehicle," said Taylor after he asked students how they got to
Taylor said that any vehicle that the driver
must rely on the use of side-view mirrors more than the rear-view
mirror classifies as a large vehicle.
Taylor believes in an interactive demonstration.
He had one student sit in the cab of Ol' Blue
in the driver's seat.
He had a second student stand in front of the
truck at different distances.
The child standing in front of the truck could
not bee seen until some fifteen feet from the driver's position.
"If you cannot see the eyes of the driver, the
driver cannot see your eyes and may not see you at all," Taylor
told the Murlin students.
An audience member asked Taylor about the stopping
distance of a large truck such as Ol' Blue.
"Ol' Blue weighs over 80,000 pounds, the trailer
is 53 feet long and with the tractor it is over 75 feet long.
At 55 miles per hour it takes the length of over one and a half
football fields to come to a stop. That is around 450 feet and
that assumes I am paying attention and that I am not talking on
the CB or the cell phone" he said.
Taylor also said that a semi-tractor without
a trailer is the most dangerous thing on the road.
"Tractors are designed to have weight on the
rear wheels, without the weight -- the rear wheels just sort of
bounce," said Taylor.
Taylor hopes that his efforts lead to people
taking care while on the road.
"Yesterday, (Taylor referred to an accident that
took place on I-75 last Wednesday) there was an accident out on
the interstate. A car and a truck were involved. Somebody didn't
pay any attention and the accident happened. There were sixteen
police officers out there plus the fire rescue and EMS crews.
They had to shut down the freeway and bring in the helicopter
to take the lady to the hospital," he said.
"Think of how much all of that cost and about
all of those people that lost time just sitting on the freeway.
An accident costs a lot of people a lot of money," Taylor said.
Joining Taylor on the short trip from Murlin
Heights Elementary to Demmitt, it was easy to see the type of
problems faced by a truck driver.
Even with a police escort, drivers of several
autos attempted to pull in too close to the front of the semi.
"If they pull in too close in front of you, you
can't see their brake lights. With the long stopping distance
of one of these trucks, you can be on top of a car in no time,"
The drivers of cars also do not realize that
a truck of this length needs to make large sweeping turns.
Cars also tend to drive too close behind semis.
"If they cannot see my mirrors -- I can't see
the cars," Taylor said.
Taylor is very impressed with the local communities
and the dedication of local officials to making life safer for
"I live in Van Nuys, Calif. not far from Los
Angeles. The quality of equipment you have in Vandalia and Butler
Township rivals and exceeds anything we have in our area," he
"You also have some of the most dedicated police,
firefighters and rescue people that I can think of. It is really
great what you have here in Vandalia and Butler Township," said
Taylor closed out his presentation by telling
his young audience members, "There are two things that I want
to leave you with. The first is that you need to learn to be safe
around large vehicles and the second is that you stay in school,
at least through high school. I dropped out of school in junior
high to go drive a truck, don't be a dummy like old RJ. Stay in
Taylor knows that everyone wants one thing when
being up close to a truck -- they want to hear the horn.
He obliges by letting the volunteer sitting in
the cab pull the chain that sounds the horn.
The audience is satisfied.
Taylor also hopes they come away with knowledge
about large vehicles that can save their lives.