Crime and violence against commercial drivers are significant problems, particularly for minority and female drivers. It has become such an issue that the FMCSA has launched an investigation and crime prevention study to identify trends and understand the potential impacts that crime is having on the current truck driver shortage.
However beneficial in the long run, studies don’t keep drivers safe while they’re on the road. No one wants to become the victim of a robbery, assault, or worse. And while you never know when crime will strike, and no amount of prevention tips can stop crime from occurring, there are some steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of becoming the victim of a crime. Here are five steps you can take to help you secure your truck and yourself on your next trip.
#1. Know Your Route
In many cases, you have the decision-making authority as to which roads you take, and chances are, you already plan for weather and traffic conditions to make your trip safer. But how often do you think about the potential for crime along your route? Over the last year, CDLLife reported several incidents of crime against drivers, about 40% of which involved violence–sometimes, extreme.
If you’re traveling to an unfamiliar area, plan to know where there are safe, well-lit and patrolled areas where you can take breaks or overnight. For example, popular truck stops and rest stops with steady, 24-hour traffic will provide a safer resting spot than dimly lit lots or out-of-the-way roadsides. Also, if you’re traveling to a high-crime area, try to plan your arrival during daylight hours and stick to well-traveled roads.
#2. Secure Your Cab and Yourself
Whether you are inside or outside of your cab, make it a habit to lock all doors and roll windows up to where a person cannot fit through or reach interior locking mechanisms. It might seem like an over-reaction, locking your doors while inside your cab, but how many times have you dozed off while taking a break in the driver’s seat or your sleeping berth? If your doors are unlocked, and you’re not paying attention to what’s going on around you, you become an easy target. Keeping your entry points secured secures you from attempted break-ins and gives you time to react to potential threats.
Additionally, keep any valuables, including your phone, wallet, credit/debit cards, and identification with you at all times. If you travel with larger electronics, such as a laptop or tablet, stow them in a locking safe or keep them hidden out of sight any time you are away from your cab. Also, travel with as little cash as possible, and use small bills, like $20s or smaller, when paying cash for purchases. You never know who is watching, and large bills can make you a tempting target.
#3. Stay Alert
When walking to your truck from a restaurant, restroom, hotel room, or other roadside stops, always make sure your keys are in your hand and ready for use. Digging for your keys in your pocket or handbag makes you a distracted, easy target for would-be criminals.
Whenever you’re outside of your truck, stay focused on your surroundings. Distractions such as your phone, newspapers, or books keep you from noticing the people and conditions around you. Your text messages and social media updates can wait until you’re seated inside a restaurant or safely inside your hotel room. If you’re on a walk in an unfamiliar area, stay alert. Keep your head up, your eyes open, and avoid any places that make you feel uncomfortable. If it feels “off” or “wrong,” it probably is… and there’s no sense in tempting fate!
And staying alert is also important while you’re on the road. If you encounter a road-rage incident, back off and avoid the angered driver as much as possible. If they follow you on your route, drive directly to a police station if you can find one. Otherwise, go to a well-lit, populated location like a truck stop or busy shopping center. Do not engage with a raging driver. Keep your doors locked, stay out of sight, and dial 9-1-1 for emergency services.
#4. Learn Self Defense
No one wants to get in a fight, but if given no other options, it’s better if you know how to defend yourself. Self-defense classes, including martial arts and boxing, are beneficial in many ways beyond fighting off a would-be attacker. They’re a fun form of exercise, a great social experience, and an energizing way to beat stress! Just know that what you learn in class doesn’t translate exactly to a live fight. In the event of an attack, you’ll experience an adrenaline rush, fear, anger, confusion, and more, that all challenge your ability to fight back. However, the more you practice, the better you will defend yourself in an actual altercation.
#5. Carry a Self-Defense Device
In response to the rising violence and crime against truck drivers, Mike Mercer, a retired police officer from Maine, developed a device called the F3 Defense. This in-door-mounted device allows truckers to deploy pepper spray at a potential attacker without even opening their cab door. While the F3 Defense is still undergoing development and crowdfunding efforts, testers told CDLLife that having the device installed makes them feel safer than alternative self-defense mechanisms.
Until a product like F3 Defense goes public, there are many non-lethal self-defense products. For example, devices such as pepper spray, stun guns, and even flashlights can help you defend yourself in an attack. But remember: never try to use a weapon without proper training on ongoing practice. And be sure you comply with your carrier contact and all local, state, and federal laws.
For those who prefer to carry a firearm while driving, remember that while it’s your right in the United States, doing so on the job could put you in violation of carrier rules or local regulations, and concealed carry permits often do not translate across state lines. So before packing a firearm for your trip, be sure you’re in compliance with your carrier contract and all state and local laws along your route.
Interested in becoming a backer or tester of the F3 Defense system? Click here to donate to Mercer’s campaign or to contact the organizers.
Again, no one can prevent crime entirely. However, we hope that by following these tips, you can enjoy safer driving and peaceful stops along your routes.