As a commercial motor vehicle driver, you spend most of your workday out on the road. Whether you’re traveling to locations you’ve never been to before or following a regular route, a potential threat to your safety and security can come from anywhere.
The key to staying safe is recognizing and avoiding potentially harmful situations before they have a chance to play out. After completing this article, you will learn how to better protect yourself against potential dangers to your safety during trip planning, when on the road, and during every step along the way. Cultivate a heightened sense of awareness of your surroundings and any potential dangers you may encounter. Recognize threats and respond appropriately to keep the circumstances from escalating and apply techniques to minimize your risk of being targeted.
Every driver knows unexpected things can happen on the road. You can be forced to step earlier than you planned because of weather, mechanical issues, or even illness. Or you may have to keep going because the truck stop or rest area you plan to use has no more space available or is closed. To make sure you stay safe, it’s important you properly plan for the unexpected before you head out.
When planning your route, take time to map out two or three safe locations for every scheduled rest stop or refuel. Make a note of all safe locations along the route if you need to stop sooner than you planned due to severe weather that makes travel unsafe. Unexpected traffic delays roadwork that makes you use an alternate route or finding yourself at your hours of service limit. Use apps such as park my truck or trucker path to help you locate available parking. Also, talk to other drivers at your company to determine which locations and neighborhoods are safe and which ones you should avoid. Other drivers may be more familiar with these locations and are your best source of information on safe places to stop.
There are many on the road threats you’re likely to face at some point in your professional driving career. You may encounter or have already encountered threats like road rage, staged vehicle accidents, or a mechanical breakdown of your own. Recognizing what to do if you’re ever in these types of situations will help you stay safe.
Angry and aggressive drivers can be found anywhere. Even though you may have the biggest vehicle on the road, it doesn’t guarantee you won’t become a target. To avoid aggressive drivers, you first need to know how to spot them by recognizing some typical behaviors. Always be vigilant. Look for drivers that cut people off the tailgate, run traffic lights, drive at high speeds, use hand gestures and profanity, flash their lights, or blare their horns. If you see drivers showing any of these behaviors, increase your vehicles’ distance and do your best to ignore them.
You never want to escalate the situation by retaliating with words, gestures, blowing your horn at them, or tailgating. Sometimes despite your best efforts, road rage incidents do escalate. If this happens, don’t pull over and stop. You have no idea what the other driver is capable of or if they’re carrying a weapon. If you are forced to stop, stay in your truck, and make sure your doors are locked. If possible, try to leave yourself a way out if you are confronted, then call the police or Highway Patrol and let them handle the situation.
Whether you’re stopped at a truck stop, rest area, or customer location, you don’t want to be an easy target for criminal activity. Staying aware of your surroundings and exercising cautions are the keys to your safety. To protect yourself from thieves, keep your doors locked at all times when moving and when stopped. If you leave your truck, even for just a minute, make sure you turn off your engine, relax the doors and hold on to your keys. If you are temporarily stopped or slowed down at a railroad crossing or a stoplight, it’s a perfect opportunity for thieves to jump onto your running boards or trailer in an attempt to enter the cab or steal your cargo. It’s best practice always to leave yourself a way out when temporarily stopped. Don’t pull up to the railroad tracks or intersection if thieves confront you to stay inside the cab and call the authorities when you’re stopped at a truck stop, rest area, or customer location.
Watch out for people following you around. Avoid people who seem especially interested in your cargo. Protect your cargo from thieves by backing up against a wall or even the back of another trailer when possible, so your trailer doors cannot be opened. Also, use a heavy-duty padlock at all times while fully loaded and when empty. In case your debit or credit cards are lost or stolen, carry the telephone numbers of each company separate from your wallet. That way, you’ll be able to quickly and easily contact them.
Yes, trucks and cargo have monetary value, and often these trucks are sold with insurance, but they can be replaced while you can’t. The unfortunate truth is that professional drivers, just like you, have fallen victim to the crime during a trip. Drivers have been killed, and road rage incidents had personal belongings stolen out of their cab and been attacked while parked for the night. If you’re ever involved in such an event, immediately reported to local officials by calling 911 and also call and report the incident to your company.
Always plan for the unexpected. Being aware of your surroundings and knowing how to respond when you find yourself in dangerous situations appropriately will ensure you will reach your destination and get back home safely.
Dennis has been a professional security consultant space based out of Chapel Hill for over 15 years. His experience runs the gamut between government and private organizations (specifically in the finance and insurance sector) with a specialty in consulting for executive and high-value protection surrounding Kidnap and Ransom mitigation.