As a teenager growing up in Maine, I often drove a Suburban with a large trailer while working for a friend of mine. If the Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) of a truck, trailer and load exceed 8,000 pounds it is considered a commercial vehicle in Maine. I’ll skip over some of the nuances, but this requires a different vehicle registration, a different annual vehicle inspection (a particularly large process in Maine), the possibility of driver log books, annual medical checkups., and more. Federal law also requires commercial vehicles to be equipped with a fire extinguisher.
Since moving to Washington, I rarely haul the weight that I used to. However, I maintain my Commercial Drivers License (CDL) and certain safety equipment in my trucks, particularly a fire extinguisher. A few years ago I was driving on Interstate 5 quite a bit north of Seattle and passed a car with an engine fire. I stopped along with another passerby and we both did what we could with our small disposable fire extinguishers but it didn’t help significantly. After that, I made sure to have a five pound rechargeable extinguisher in my truck.
A couple years ago I provided logistical support to some friends running a weekend event at a former missile silo in the desert in central Washington. One evening while returning from town towing a large water trailer, my friend riding with me and I noticed a flashing light. When I pulled over I discovered that the underside of my truck was on fire. I quickly grabbed the fire extinguisher and put out the fire. In the afternoon I had drug a large scrap steel frame behind my truck for quite a while in part of the desert to create a couple roads through the designated camping areas. I discovered that pieces of the brush had compacted in the truck’s frame and the exhaust had set it on fire. I happened to have a thousand gallons of water and a gasoline powered pump behind the truck at the time, but the extinguisher was much more efficient than starting up the pump motor and unraveling the hose would have been.
I had that extinguisher recharged, but I upgraded again to a an eighteen pound extinguisher for my truck. I didn’t really expect to need it, but prefer to be prepared and I already had a couple experiences to prove the value. This evening while driving on Interstate 5 in south Seattle, my passenger saw a car that was on fire and a police car trying to pull it over. I was past the vehicle already but quickly changed lanes to get in the same lane as the car on fire. I grabbed my fire extinguisher and ran to assist the police officer. Apparently the driver didn’t realize her car was on fire and the officer got her to stop the car’s engine and exit the vehicle. The fire seemed to go out when the engine was stopped so I stood back while he got the driver situated. In a few minutes the fire truck was arriving and another officer thanked me and invited me to leave. I didn’t have to use the extinguisher, but once again I’m glad I always carry one.