There are a lot of positives to becoming a truck driver, especially right now when demand – and wages – are high. However, a good trucking school in Ontario can’t focus entirely on the positives. Students need to understand the full reality of the job they’re entering into, and the reality is that truck driving can be dangerous.
After all, you’ll be hauling around goods that are often worth a lot of money. Merely driving a semi with a trailer can make you a target for theft or hijacking. There’s also the matter of personal protection. You’ll be spending time in rest stops and other public spaces which often aren’t well-patrolled. There’s always the possibility of a mugging, or – unfortunately – even sexual violence.
In short, a truck driver does need to be prepared for the worst. A quality trucking school can’t go over every eventuality, but they can offer some good ideas on how to keep yourself safe.
Protecting Yourself From Violence And Theft As A Truck Driver
I. Regarding weaponry
Let’s start with the most obvious forms of self-defense: weapons.
First, it is unlikely you’ll be able to carry a gun, although that will depend on both your employer and where you’re driving. Both Canadian provinces and US states have wildly varying laws on the matter of whether drivers can have guns, which will especially be an issue if you’re crossing borders. Drivers have gotten themselves arrested by driving from a permitted to restricted area. Also, many trucking companies simply won’t allow guns in the cab due to safety or liability issues.
In short, don’t plan on having a gun, although it might be possible depending on the circumstances.
However, you can generally carry other forms of non-lethal self-defense weapons, such as pepper spray or stun guns. That said, this will again largely depend on what your employer allows you to have in the truck.
So, for truckers, the best option is generally to be aware of what everyday objects you have that can double as weapons. Tire irons, wrenches, and other similar long-handled metal tools can be effective. Also, tools such as hammers, and screwdrivers can also work. Another good trick is to use a large padlock, with your finger through the ring, as a sort of poor man’s brass knuckles. Large MagLite style flashlights are also excellent, especially since you’ll be using them at night for visibility anyway.
In truth, though, we strongly recommend drivers not rely on weapons except as a last resort. Being proactive in avoiding dangerous situations in the first place is a much better idea.
II. Maintaining situational awareness
The best way to avoid violence and dangerous situations is to always be aware of your surroundings. Avoid doing things that prevent you from knowing what’s going on around you. Never walk around looking at your cell phone. Never wear headphones in public, especially if you’re working alone. Appearing distracted will be a magnet for criminals and turn you into a target.
You should always have your head on a swivel, taking in your surroundings. Keep an eye out for people following you, or people who seem to be lurking in shadows or around corners. And listen to your gut. If something about a situation feels wrong, don’t ignore it. If possible, walk away or avoid the situation.
Remember, criminals are always looking to minimize danger to themselves. If you appear alert, aware, and capable you’ll automatically reduce your chances of being in a bad situation. They’ll look for an easier target.
III. Avoid rest stops at night whenever possible
Rest stops can sometimes be dangerous, particularly at night. They usually have minimal security and are often completely unguarded. Bathrooms, in particular, put targets into highly vulnerable situations.
There may be times you have to stop at once but do try to avoid it. If you must stop at a rest stop, look for one that’s well-lit and -preferably- has other people visible in the area.
Otherwise, though, try to find larger 24-hour truck stops that are well-lit and have plenty of traffic coming through. Those will be safer since there’s less chance of you being alone and out of sight of other people.
IV. Other tips when walking around outside your truck
Just to touch on a few other key areas:
- Be visible as much as possible. Avoid situations where you’re out of sight of other people. Don’t be afraid to wear bright clothing, or even reflective safety gear; visibility is protection.
- Be extra careful when walking between trailers, such as at a truck parking lot. It’s effectively an enclosed space, you aren’t visible, and there’s a genuine risk of someone hiding behind or even beneath a trailer waiting to attack.
- If you suspect you’re in danger, make noise. Criminals want to do their crimes quietly. If you’re attacked, yelling and screaming may actually be a better defense than weaponry. Carrying an air horn, rape whistle, or similar noisemaker is another good idea.
- Don’t shout for help, shout fire. Sadly, many people will ignore cries for help, but yelling “fire” will get everyone’s attention since it implies they are in danger as well.
V. Making your truck safer
Finally, let’s look at ways you can utilize your truck to reduce your chances of becoming a victim. In many cases, your truck is your first and best line of defense, particularly if you have a sleeper.
- Completely cover your windows. If your truck doesn’t have blackout-style curtains, install some. You do not want people on the outside being able to look inside, particularly when sleeping.
- Don’t answer the door at night. Criminals, scammers, thieves, prostitutes, and more will try to turn you into a mark. Unless they’re shouting “police open up” don’t even respond, or tell them in no uncertain terms to go away. And if they are cops, demand they show their badge before you open the door.
- Keep electronics and other valuables out of sight, just in general. Even if you’re only ducking into a gas station store for a snack, stow away anything that would be attractive to thieves.
- Tie-down your door at night. Don’t trust the lock alone; they’re usually pretty weak. It’s possible to use your seatbelts or similar implements to tie the door down and make it nearly impossible to open from the outside, even if they defeat the lock.
- Keep a weapon at hand near your bed. Again, weapons should be a last resort, but you absolutely should have something which is always within arm’s reach when you’re in your cab or bed. Just in case.
5th Wheel Training Institute Is A Highly Respected Ontario Trucking School
We are one of the leading Ontario trucking schools because we focus on preparing our students for every aspect of trucking life. Our comprehensive curriculum goes far beyond book learning, with highly experienced instructors who understand the realities of life on the road. We also offer extensive on-site training facilities which recreate actual job sites and real-world work. You won’t get that from many other trucking schools!
If the road calls to you, we can put you on the path to success. Click here to learn more about us!