John Ross has been driving trucks for about 20 years and has never had one get stuck. But a steep hill in Astoria has ended not only his streak, but possibly his career.
“I officially retire,” Ross said with a serious look on his face and a cigar in hand. “Twenty years is enough.”
Ross was driving an 18-wheel Volvo semitruck Wednesday morning for PLR Transport when the back bumper caught the pavement and stalled near Eighth Street and Franklin Avenue.
After scraping the ground, Ross — who lives in Vancouver, Washington, and has never driven in Astoria — tried to continue up the hill. But the doors in the back of the truck began to open, and his large load of animal food was in danger of spilling.
Neighbors could hear the scraping on the road from blocks away.
“He tried to go up and down a few times and jimmy his way through, but he quit when the load started to give,” said Roger McGregor, who was sleeping inside his nearby home when he heard the commotion.
Ross was headed toward Brim’s Farm & Garden on U.S. Highway 101 Business to drop off a load. The Google Maps app on his phone suggested he take 16th Street over the hill, but he thought differently.
“Usually with these animal feed loads, it’s out in the woods,” Ross said. “It’s not city delivery.”
The truck was removed after police closed the street for nearly two hours. After shifting much of the load toward the front of the trailer, a tow truck was able to lift it up from the back and guide it down the street, Astoria Police Chief Geoff Spalding said. The truck was driven to a different location, and the animal feed will be transferred to another vehicle.
A large white scrape is visible on the street as evidence of the incident.
“We obviously collected the gentleman’s insurance information because it likely will cost the city some money to repair it,” Spalding said.
Out of Astoria’s steep hills, the hill on Eighth Street near McClure Park is one of the steepest. The road flattens as cars approach the block from the bottom, steepens and then slightly flattens again before drivers reach the top.
The street has signs that warn against trucks, trailers and buses attempting to make the climb. Ross was cited for failure to obey a traffic-control device.
Just to the side of the stalled truck was a large dent in the road after a similar vehicle nearly stalled last year.
“It’s not just the fact that it’s steep. It’s the competing angles,” Astoria Police Sgt. Chris McNeary said. “If it was just steep, it would be easier.”