From Tires to Fires: Take Care or Get Burned

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[Synopsis: Those metal trailers can get hot in the summer. Take care… or get burned, like me.]

My career in the transportation industry began not with a moving company but with a freight service. I spent two high school summers working with a buddy for his dad’s trucking business where I loaded trailers with car tires at the Bridgestone and Michelin distribution warehouses, day after sweaty day.

One tire at a time we loaded them, each of us throwing 20-25,000 pounds worth of steel-belted radials in a day. We stacked them in walls called tiers, interlacing the tires to make optimum use of trailer space. We climbed these tiers to cram our tires all the way to the roof because if they didn’t all fit on the trailer the first time, we’d have to pull them out and pack them in tighter.

Even getting them all on the first time, loading 25,000 lbs. of tires onto a trailer took the better part of the day, and after hours sitting out in the middle of a macadam and concrete industrial area in New Jersey, underneath the steamy sun-scorched trailers – in particular their metal roofs – would sizzle like a skillet of bacon. Meanwhile, I’d be cramming my tires into every last bit of space under that frying pan. Inevitably, my back or my arm would come in contact with that hot metal.

My friend in the next trailer knew when it happened because he could hear the screaming.

Fast forward to my move crew days…

Now I was loading trucks and trailers with customers’ belongings. Now it was the Denver, Colorado summer sun beating down and heating up that metal roof. And with my second-degree burns from my tire-loading days having just healed, I knew enough to take care when trying to slip those last few skinny items up into that tiny space on top of the load.

During these scorching summer days, be sure to take care and be aware of the skillet heating up over your head. Keep your skin and your customers’ stuff off of that hot plate. Because like these folks in Queens, New York, you never know what might start burning.

Cushion Under a Hot Tin Roof: Packing That Truck in the Hot Summer Sun

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Picture of Old Tires. Credit to Jayme del Rosario

I got my ignominious start in the transportation industry when a good high school friend of mine asked me one summer if I wanted to work with him at his father’s trucking company. Not knowing what I was getting into, I said yes.

Every day we would load car tires onto trailers headed for… well honestly I don’t know. The job began and ended there at the tire warehouse. And the work consisted entirely of packing as many tires as possible onto those trailers. What happened next was a mystery we didn’t care to look into.

We had a clear method for stacking the tires so as to minimize empty space and get more cargo loaded onto those broiling metal trailers. But at the top it was all about cramming them in. And on one brutally hot New Jersey afternoon, clinging to a wall of Bridgestones, trying to force one last 175/65R14 into the bit of remaining space at the top, I learned just how scalding that metal roof could get.

The heat burned my back right through my t-shirt, and in only a couple of seconds. My shirt was fine – a minor consolation – but it made me think what that heat might be doing to those tires, crammed against that burning metal roof over several hours.

Now consider that same burning summer sun heating up the metal roof of a moving van. And think about what we are cramming up there on top of those folding lawn chairs. (The cushions to those chairs maybe?)

High school was a long time ago (for me). Maybe some trucks out there now have roofs that protect things – like human flesh – from catching fire. But if you can, check the roof of the next truck you load. Preferably with a quick finger, not your entire back. Then consider what will happen to that cushion you want to cram up there at the top of your tier.

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Photo credit: Jayme del Rosario

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