ONETIME- House-rocker: Tight driveway led to collision

Steve Chronister, Lead Craftsman/Restoration Superintendent for the Montpelier Foundation

One time, I was just a few weeks away from completing a pretty large house in an unusual location: the driveway was a single-lane, very twisty road about three-quarters of a mile long. At the house, there was almost always no room to turn any truck longer than a pickup around. Everybody was told to either pull in and back out or back in and pull out. 

A driver was delivering tile in a truck that was only twenty-four feet long. Because the job was winding down, we had tons of people on-site. The driveway area was packed. This guy was a professional driver (supposedly). 

I told him that we had just finished grading and seeding the front yard– there was no room to turn around. 

He would have to back it out. He was convinced that he couldn't do it. I told him what we had done for the past year, and if he couldn't do it, I'd do it, and left it at that.

I walked into the house to have a job meeting with my boss and the owners. Probably within two minutes, we were in the house's living room, when all of a sudden, this entire house rocked. 

This guy had decided that he had to turn the truck around, so he had backed over the front yard and rammed the back of his truck into the house– right next to the front door.

It heavily damaged the synthetic stucco system that had just been finished: to patch it, you have to re-do the entire wall. 

I'm very even-tempered, but that was as close as I've come in my life to trying to wear somebody out with a two-by-four– but I didn't. Everybody stepped up and did what needed to be done to fix it, and we got everything finished up on schedule.

Planning is essential. I was in the residential construction business for twenty-five years plus, and you can plan as well as possible and you still can't avoid all accidents. This was not an accident, though, but just plain stupidity. 

People get in a production/busy frame of mind sometimes, and they kind of zone out, and that's when what you try to avoid is going to happen. Your mind wanders, and it's that split-second where your thumb runs through a table saw or something similar.

Always be alert. And when you start to get tired, stop. I still have a hard time understanding that driver's decision. In that instance, unless you put up Jersey barriers around the house, you couldn't have stopped that truck.

What else can you do?