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    [ Ol'Blue, USA NEWS ARCHIVES ]

      Ol' Blue, USA NEWS for July, 1999

    RJ & Ol Blue
    Ol' Blue, USA makes another appearance in Vandalia - Butler area

    Vandalai Drummer News Staff Writer

    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 frame.

    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 school.

    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," he said.

    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 area residents.

    "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 said.

    "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.

    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 school."

    Taylor knows that everyone wants one thing when being up close to a truck -- they want to hear the horn.

    RJ & Ol Blue

    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.

    The preceding article, © SND News
    SND News Logo

    Ol' Blue, USA's  News Editor Gary Bricken

      Vandalia Drummer News

    is a registered trademark.

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