Taking Care of No. 1

| April 07, 2005

Assaults can happen anytime, anywhere – even in broad daylight. Your best protection is constant situational awareness.

It’s dangerous out there. Risks to drivers’ personal safety are numerous, but they’re not always obvious. Just look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ fatality census for 2000. It concluded that truck driving was the most hazardous occupation in the United States that year.

While fatal crashes remain the leading killer of truck drivers, statistics indicate there is more to being safe than just driving safely. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, 929 drivers died from assaults or other violent crimes in 2000. Two percent of driver fatalities were officially ruled as homicides.

More than most workers, the driver works in a variety of environments. And just as the driver adjusts his awareness when the driving environment changes, he will be safer when he learns to assess all work situations, inside the truck and out, and adjust his behavior accordingly.

Where to Park
Deciding where to park is one of the most important decisions a driver can make concerning his personal safety. It’s also a decision best made ahead of time, if possible.

The best place to shut down is a reputable truckstop that emphasizes security for it drivers. Lisa Mullings, vice president of public affairs and counsel for NATSO, a national trade association representing the truckstop and travel plaza industry says, “Our organization encourages members to provide security for its customers.”

Still, no matter how safe an area appears to be, you need to take precautions. Many criminals are creatures of opportunity who need little time to make you their next victim.

While parking at some truckstops is at a premium during the day’s waning hours, make the effort to try and find a parking spot that is well lit and as close as possible to the facility.

But no matter where, or when, you park, caution remains paramount. When returning to your truck, Peter Malvey, director of operations for Personal Protective Services, a tactical security firm, suggests approaching the truck from the passenger side and using a flashlight to check the interior from there.

A rest area may be your best alternative if you are not near a truckstop with available parking. But any rest area, isolated or not, can be hazardous at any time. While you may feel safe locked in your cab, your safety can be compromised, especially when you climb in or out of the cab or when you’re doing a pretrip.

Malvey suggests, “Always park with your cab toward the light. Never pull down into a spot whether you’re in a rest area or a truckstop.” Don Breeden, an Elite Fleet driver for PGT in Monaca, Pa., says, “It’s even dangerous to keep your vents open. People spray ether through the vents to knock a driver unconscious while he’s sleeping and rob him.”

A last parking resort is often the roadside stop. But sleeping on entrance ramps provides heightened possibilities for crime, not to mention tickets and traffic incidents.

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