Can a single nagging thought resolve a longstanding problem for the transportation industry and the mechanics who keep it rolling? Billy Turner, co-creator of TetherTech Safety, says, “Yes!”
People drive alongside other vehicles every day. And every single day, they are potential victims of a wheel suddenly detaching from another moving car or truck, resulting in accidents, injuries and death. Sons, mothers, babies, grandpas – no one is safe when a wheel separation occurs and the approaching speed between a bouncing wheel and oncoming vehicles can exceed 100 miles per hour.
Perhaps it seems unlikely, but it happens more often than people think. In fact, some in the fire and rescue field would estimate that wheel failure incidents occur daily. But the truth is the exact numbers are hard to determine because many events go unreported.
One report from the Ontario Provincial Police in 2016, however, documented 56 wheel-off events that year in their district alone – that’s almost five per month. Many officials in the area say they know the actual number is much higher than that, but not every wheel failure incident gets reported, so it’s hard to know precisely how many occurrences happen each year.
According to a safety recommendation from the National Transportation Safety Board in 1992, during a “3-week period alone between October 14 and November 4. 1991, three fatal heavy truck-wheel separation accidents occurred, including an accident in which the front left wheel broke off of a two-axle cargo van truck and careened into the path of an oncoming school bus carrying 46 fourth-graders and their chaperones. The 365-pound wheel slammed through the bus windshield, killing two children and a chaperone.” (National Transportation Safety Board Safety Recommendation)
It was an early morning that just such an incident occurred as Billy Turner was on his way to work. A truck lost its dual wheels and tires from the trailer, which ultimately collided with a jeep, killing two teenagers. It was an event that haunts him to this day.
“It was a family traveling together, and the parents were following behind. They watched their two children die that day,” said Turner.
Not a year later, Turner, who owned a trucking company himself at the time, had one of his trucks show up at his terminal, missing the dual wheels from the trailer. Fortunately, no one was injured, but as he investigated the situation, he found the driver had no idea he had even lost the wheels.
“This was extremely alarming to me,” said Turner. And from that day, Turner’s mind has not been able to shut off.
“I knew there must be a way to prevent wheel separation accidents. So I started playing it out in my mind, drawing up plans and testing theories.” Unbeknownst to him, he would soon be revealing a safety product that could change the transportation industry, but more importantly, would save lives.
Turner shared his idea with his lifelong friend Troy Miller, who said, “I want in!” He knew his friend had the mind, work ethic and vision for just such a project.
With much of the blame placed on improper maintenance – for instance, mechanics not properly torquing lug nuts after changing a tire, the two set out to find a solution to the problem.
“Billy is the backbone and brains of the operation, and I am the numbers guy,” said co-creator Miller. “I am used to putting numbers to projects, but you cannot put a dollar figure on someone’s life. I have been in banking for many years, and that just can’t be done. So the value of a TetherTech Hub System that protects lives is immeasurable.”
After many sleepless nights and failed attempts to control opposite moving parts on a trailer at high speeds going down a highway, Turner became slightly obsessed. Every day that passed, he knew this was a problem that needed solving.
And he knew he could solve it.
So today, with patent in hand, his Tethertech safety system has proven infallible. Turner and Miller are currently working with several partners. From the engineering department at Oklahoma State University and several programs within the CareerTech network to trucking companies and maintenance departments, TetherTech is crossing over many different platforms and boundary lines to create a unified steadfast product produced in western Oklahoma but with a far-reaching global impact.
The duo needed a location for their operation. Miller didn’t have to look much further than his backyard. Located not much more than 15 miles from his home in Anadarko set one of the state’s first Technology Centers in Oklahoma: Caddo Kiowa Technology Center.
“I started meeting with Billy and Troy early on in the game. Right away, I knew they would be a perfect fit for our business incubator at CKTC,” said Shawn Freie, Small Business Management Coordinator.
Freie’s job is to seek out businesses that would benefit from becoming a tenant in Caddo Kiowa Tech’s Business Development Center and Incubator. Even more, she looks for start-up companies that would also become quite productive for the southwest region in Oklahoma.
” Incubators provide a great support system for businesses during the early stages of operation,” explained Freie. “We provide entrepreneurs with an array of targeted resources and services such as production and office space and printing and marketing services.”
Specifically, CKTC is doing some reconstruction of the space that TetherTech will use. An overhead door is being installed and several other renovations that will accommodate the new company and its production of the safety mechanism invention.
Founders Turner and Miller hope to tap into the reputable CareerTech system.
“We can partner with programs like Diesel Service, Truck Driver Training and Precision Machining educating and training them on the product. Working together, we can produce even better and safer workers,” said Miller.
Safer roads, job creation and economic security for the region: “And it’s all happening right here in southwest Oklahoma,” reported Freie.For over half a century, CKTC has provided career training, business and industry services and leadership programs to a rural district in southwest Oklahoma. Opportunities at CKTC range from business and health to science and transportation trades. Additionally, CKTC offers customized workplace training and short-term training. More information about CKTC is available online at www.mycktc.com or by calling 405.643.5511. CKTC is a proud member of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, which provides leadership and resources and assures standards of excellence for a comprehensive statewide system of career and technology education. The system offers programs and services in 29 technology center districts.