Driver Survives Eight Hours Pinned, Frozen Under Truck

During the height of the cold snap at the beginning of the year, 53 year-old driver Tim Rutledge found himself at a truck stop in Indiana, sleeping in his truck, waiting out the sub-zero temperatures. When he woke up he found that his brakes had frozen during the night, so he climbed under his truck to break up the ice to free them up. As he was down there, his truck shifted in the snow and he was pinned beneath an axle.

Not only was the temperature around -10F, but the wind was blowing at around 30 mph, bringing the wind chill down to -35F. That wind prevented anyone else from hearing Rutledge’s calls for help and he was stuck under his truck in the freezing weather for a full eight hours.

Lucky for Rutledge, he has a wife who he checks in with every morning to let her know where he’s at and where he’s headed. When he failed to call her, she get worried and called him repeatedly. His phone was in his pocket, and he was unable to reach it, but because she called so many times, the vibrating of the phone caused it to fall out of his pocket and right in front of his face. He was able to use the voice command features to call the last number in his phone which happened to be his dispatcher.


“I said ‘Whoever this is, don’t hang up on me because it’s going to be the last time that I’ll be able to call. I can’t call out and I can’t answer the phone,’” he told reporters while he was recovering in a hospital in Indianapolis.

His dispatcher was able to call the truck stop, who notified the local authorities, who were able to locate him under his truck.

When his rescuers arrived, they found that Rutledge had literally frozen to the ground and they had to cut him out of his clothes to be able to remove him from under his truck. By the time he made it to the hospital, Rutledge’s body temperature had dropped to 86o.

The trauma surgeon who treated him said that another hour in the cold would have killed him, but he was incredibly lucky to have escaped without even getting any frostbite injuries.

Rutledge himself claimed that he was lucky to be alive.

“There was another hand in this,” he said. “If my phone would’ve dropped the other way, I could never have called anyone. If [the truck] would’ve sunk any farther, I wouldn’t have had a need to call anyone.”

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Source: the guardian

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{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

TriPac Dude January 16, 2014 at 10:56 pm

I am glad to hear that this man survived without any injuries. Me and my dad were at a truck stop in East St Louis to fuel during these bitterly cold temperatures, and we got stuck on the fuel island. We worked for two hours to get the truck out, and now that I’ve read this, I am so greatful that nothing like this happened to one of us. Again, best of luck to this driver!

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John S January 17, 2014 at 6:26 am

It great this story had a good ending. I remember a old timer telling me years ago. Leave your trailer brakes released in the cold. At least with the tractor you have torque to break them loose. Let’s all hope the cold weather stays far North!

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kjo February 3, 2014 at 11:22 pm

yep… right up till you snap a u joint …..

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Ray January 17, 2014 at 6:40 am

I remember reading about this in the news. I can’t imagine the hell. I’m glad he’s still with us.

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peter January 17, 2014 at 7:07 am

That’s one lucky man, glad he is safe.

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Joseph January 17, 2014 at 7:12 am

I would say at this point I would have to give all Glory to God, I do belive that the chain of events that happened are a miracle of God, especially nothing really happen to him

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ben January 17, 2014 at 7:38 am

Another example of why we dont get paid enough to risk our lives day in and day out.

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Greg January 17, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Name another industry where an employee has to do crap like this for free because if he doesn’t get “miles” he doesn’t get paid. And the company will probably put abandonment of the truck on DAC because he left in an ambulance.

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rhinestone eyes January 27, 2014 at 9:43 pm

Have no idea how long you’ve been behind the wheel, but its clear long enough to have seen the b.s. written on DAC reports. They changed their name, haven’t changed their ways.

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Michael January 17, 2014 at 7:52 am

Yeah, it kind of shoots my Worst Winter Trucking Story right in the ass.

If I had been that guy, I’d have probably been praying for the truck to just squish me and get it over with. I hate cold. I’m pretty sure it’s at least -40 in Hell.

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Scott Sr. January 17, 2014 at 7:58 am

Nothing much to say other than this is one tough sob.

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MADDTRUCKER January 17, 2014 at 8:18 am

NOW THATS A TRUCKERS WIFE MAY WE ALL BE SOO BLESSED ;]-

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Jerry January 18, 2014 at 11:02 am

Amen! My wife Read this, told me about it said that one of the reason that she keeps up
where I’m at,
Thank you Lord For Saving that Man’s life!
Thank you Lord for His Wife!
So Many Thanks Lord, For All You Do!

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duke8076 January 22, 2014 at 11:54 am

Amen Jerry,I second that Thank you Jesus!!

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Dave D January 17, 2014 at 8:20 am

Glad to hear he is ok. That was nasty weather and its amazing he’s alive. Be safe out there.

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Blue007 January 17, 2014 at 8:43 am

I can’t even imagine what went through his headed while being pinned under the truck with freezing temp! Glad he is still with us!

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Afton January 17, 2014 at 9:25 am

Thank God! You are a survivor for sure and so glad you made it thru this. And glad you had a scared wife who knew something as wrong and didn’t stop calling. I fear for my dad with this cold all the time. He doesn’t understand my reasoning and laughs about it. BUT he is going to read this and hopefully it will sink in.

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crash January 17, 2014 at 9:55 am

And that’s why you chock your wheels and never ever set your breaks in the freezing cold!

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Gordon A January 17, 2014 at 2:04 pm

You can’t set the idle up unless the tractor brakes are set.
As a rule you can break the frozen brakes loose by putting some pressure thru the drive line. And yes your brakes can freeze up even when not set..
It just takes melting ice or snow to run down and get between the drum and shoe.

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BigEd391 January 19, 2014 at 4:29 pm

You always set the tractor, the trailer is optional in freezing weather. I never ever set trailer myself below 30 deg. especially if its wet out.

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Rich January 17, 2014 at 10:19 am

The lesson to learn from this is never set your brakes when it is below 20 degrees. You have to find a bulkhead or log to park against so your brakes won’t freeze.

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JT January 17, 2014 at 10:32 am

Nothing more than The Grace of Almoghty God that saved this man.

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Kevin January 17, 2014 at 11:27 am

Amen to that!

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Robin Doiron January 17, 2014 at 11:30 am

Talk about the Almighty God being on his side!!! Just another example of why truck drivers need to keep some lines of communication wide open with those on the home front!!! Whether a wife, parents, husband, bf, gf, a trusted friend!!! If it weren’t for this man’s wife and not hearing from him not to be a “normal”, who knows how long it would’ve been till he was found!! This man has one smart woman in his corner!!! Same with his dispatcher(s)!!!!

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derp January 17, 2014 at 6:13 pm

If you give the grace to your god for this man surviving then you have to give the blame to your god for letting him get pinned in the first place… ffs. He was lucky, we’re all happy he made it… but thank Odin he’s alive

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Bob Reynolds January 17, 2014 at 11:33 am

Praying for you for a speedy recovery. I think that all truck stops should clean their parking lots regularly. It is a well known fact that they definitely have the resources to do it. I have just recovered from a slip and fall at a truck stop resulting in a Cerebral Concussion in Erie, PA. Keeping you in my prayers. God is Good!!! All the time!!!!

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GEORGEJANSEN January 17, 2014 at 12:02 pm

YES SIR….GOD HAS FURTHER PLANS FOR THAT TRUCKER. GOD BLESS YOU MY BROTHER.

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David January 17, 2014 at 12:34 pm

It wasn’t his time!
But anyway, we drive these trucks equipped with ancient design braking systems where most of them don’t even have dust shields installed, to save a couple of pennies here and there. Even though my tractor has brakes dust shield, they still freeze sometimes because they’re of a poor piss design. On my trailer I’ve got 19.5″ wheels and the manufacturer doesn’t even offer dust shields, so, I have to crawl under almost all the time in the winter. How safe is that? But, who cares, because they’ll never go after the corporate mafia of the truck and truck components manufacturers to force them to make better and safer trucks with technologies that already exists in other parts of the world, like in Europe. The Swedes have tried and better stuff for the winter conditions for decades now, but you can’t import that here because the elites deemed it “illegal” for North America.

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Jason January 17, 2014 at 12:45 pm

I always get upset at my lady calling an putting me through the 101 questions. This story now tells me why. I think I’ll not get upset with her no longer. God blees a good woman!

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naked trucker January 17, 2014 at 1:19 pm

All the time drivers spend doing the creep in the front seat and nobody saw him . I’m surprised a driver wasn’t going back there to urinate and heard him.

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BigEd391 January 19, 2014 at 4:30 pm

To cold to get out for that, they used a jug and threw it out the window.

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Lisa January 17, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Wow! I’ve had my tractor brakes frozen and it is no picnic. Sometimes all the preventative measures do not work, especially when there are temps that go from above freezing to well below freezing after you’ve parked with rain turning to snow.

For those drivers that are new to trucking- don’t set your trailer brakes in freezing weather, AND, once you’ve been parked for awhile release and reset your brakes a couple of times. I usually do that a half hour after I park and again an hour or two later, it depends on how cold it is and how quickly your brakes are cooling off. If I wake up during the night I sometimes release/reset a third time. The thinking is that the ice forming as hot brakes cool down is broken up before it sets up completely. Once the brakes are the same temperature as the surrounding weather new ice may not accumulate and cause sticking.

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cope January 24, 2014 at 1:12 am

Thank you for that. I am a new driver, first winter, and this is one of those things that no one ever mentioned on my way through the cdl mill, orientation, “training” period. This advice I will not ever forget.

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Ken Stubbs January 17, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Glad he’s ok, but he’ll still have to log that time as on duty not driving.

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MadMachs January 24, 2014 at 10:17 am

Did he get cited for violating the 1/2 hr break or the 14 hr HOS rule? I wouldn’t be surprised.

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canadian driver January 17, 2014 at 11:15 pm

Lucky driver! … and yes, big is God and his power… I just wonder who’s in charge about shifting the truck :)…

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Lucy Parker January 18, 2014 at 12:30 am

Lucky for him his dispatcher didn’t ignor his call and when home. My husband worked for knights transportation and aftee he caled in and told him he didn’t feel well and needed to ho to the hospital. Dispatcher told him hang on he would get back to him. He forgotten about him and went him. Like this mans wife I called and and called. My husband was several yatds from their front door in Joliet Illinois. They foind todays later he died of a cardiac heart attack. Trucking companys don’t care about their employees this man was very lucky.

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Alfredo Velazquez January 18, 2014 at 7:38 pm

Thank God he’s okay. With those extreme winds and cold temps I will say not the smartest move. I would have kept myself in the truck. It’s not worth a life.

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Richard A. January 21, 2014 at 1:39 am

Man, this would be my worst nightmare! I hate crawling under equipment and pounding on brakes or trying to repair a valve or airline. Not really crazy about being trapped in small spaces, particularly when you consider the ramifications of becoming stuck.

God definitely granted this man a second chance. The rest of his life is just bonus time now.

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Jerome January 22, 2014 at 9:02 am

That wasn’t luck that was a blessing

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redrobin K.koenig January 24, 2014 at 2:44 pm

I can imagine what went through his mind over the hours-…fear, prayer, thankfullness, determination, renewed will to live . If you have been stuck in a tstop during a 2-4 day blizzard when NOTHING is moving in or out you realize why NO tstop can begin to remove snow until it ends . With trucks packed in and snow drifts sometimes over a persons height around and between trucks and trailers there is lots of hand shoveling to do moving one rig at a time out of the way. Mom always packed a goody can and used several layers of duct tape to seal it so it was there for emergency rations. Nuts, dry fruit, chocolate bars, squeeze cheeze, sugar candies all high energy stuff. Tpaper, ziplocks and a good paperback or two and you can wait out weather where ever you got stuck. Retired after 21 years on the road with my guardian angel I still count myself as Blessed by everyone of them. Free proud and able to travel our wonderful country!

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