This is the second part of a three-part series on truckers’ personal safety, specifically as it relates to carrying weapons on the road. Part 1, available at this link, examines reasons why truckers would carry weapons on the road and the problems that arise from state to state variability in gun laws. See Part 3 on gauging the veracity of federal action on the issue of truckers’ right to carry at this link.
Most truckers favor the right to carry a weapon on the road. Even those who don’t often say they stand by the old saying: “I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by six.”
At the other extreme are those who aren’t sold on the value of carrying. Jeff Clark, owner of Clark Trucking and a member of Freightliner’s Team Run Smart, tells the story from the 1980s in his blog about how a would-be lumper surprised him with a gun, his hand shaking.
“That made me as nervous an anything,” Clark writes. “There is no bravery at this point. You can be brave, or you can survive. I handed him my wallet. He removed the cash from my wallet and handed the wallet back to me.”
Clark’s advice: “The main goal is to walk away. You can’t be replaced. Everything in your wallet can.”
More common are the experiences of Jack, an over-the-road trucker with 30 years of experience. He doesn’t want his real name used because he’s leased to a company with a no-guns policy.
One time, two men were trying to break into his cab. When he came out of the sleeper with his weapon in hand, they left in a hurry.
In a second incident, a man came to his truck panhandling for cash. Jack kept his gun in his lap as the guy climbed up to the window and pulled out a knife. Jack pointed his .45 at the man and growled in his best Clint Eastwood imitation, “Do you feel lucky, punk?” The perp fled.
Similar encounters are shared by these four owner-operators.
Fast on the draw
Anthony Grandinetti, owner of Grandinetti Express Transport, has 10 years of trucking experience, the past three as an independent, and more than one million safe miles. He’s had some dangerous near-miss incidents, but one stands out.
He was delivering in a bad neighborhood one night. Parked in a long, dark alley, he had to get out to open the gate. As he opened it, he heard someone behind him.
A guy wearing a hoodie asked him for a cigarette. “You’re not supposed to be here,” Grandinetti said. As the man started to pull out his handgun, Grandinetti cocked his 9mm pistol and pointed it at the robber’s chest.
“This is your last chance,” Grandinetti told him. The man fled. Grandinetti thinks the robber was after his cargo. He has no doubt having a gun saved his life.
9mm a good fit for Missfit
Maggie Riessen, owner of MissFit Trucking (and 2013’s Overdrive’s Most Beautiful winner), has been hauling livestock for 24 years. When the smiling, blonde owner-operator begins unloading her cargo, you can be sure her 9mm handgun is handy.
She has a concealed-carry permit and says having the gun makes her feel secure in bad parts of town.
“I’ve never had to show it, although I was ready when a man jumped on my step,” she says. “I shook him off at about 45 mph and didn’t have to use it, but I can if I have to.”
Smokey doubles as as Bandit
While it’s difficult to find law enforcement willing to say anything positive about truckers carrying guns, Bryan French, a full-time owner-operator and part-time law enforcement officer in Buckeye Lake, Ohio, has great appreciation for the dangers truckers face. In his 15 years as a police officer, he’s pulled over armed truckers and never had any problems.
“If you tell the officer right up front that you have a weapon and a license to carry, it should go smoothly for you,” French says. He pulled over one trucker who had a legal concealed-carry permit from his own state, but it was not valid in Ohio.
“I just told him to check the individual state laws before crossing the lines,” he says. French admits that not all officers will be as lenient as he was and that it’s important to know the laws that apply wherever you’re hauling.
Now that he’s the owner of Ohio Farm Transport, French carries a concealed 9mm Ruger and keeps a Glock 22 in his truck. He recommends keeping all guns out of view.
Armed no more
Jim Cahill of south Florida used to be in the household moving business, sometimes carrying up to $10,000 in cash. He carried a .44 Special Charter Arms and had to flash it on more than one occasion.
“If someone jumped up on the running board, I had it loaded and pointed at their chest if they wouldn’t take no for an answer,” he says. “If you show it, you better be willing to use it.”
Those carrying days are behind him now. Since 2011, Cahill has been leased to CRST Malone in Birmingham, Alabama. His carrier doesn’t allow guns in cabs.
That is fine with Cahill. He thinks truck stops are safer now, and he’s careful about where he parks. He keeps his windows and doors locked. He puts a lot of stock in being aware of his surroundings, trusting his instincts and planning his route to include safe parking locations.
Besides, he points out, carrying is not worth the hassle of worrying about the legality of driving through unfriendly gun states.
The following graphics are derived from an Overdrive survey conducted in December 2016 on truckers and personal safety.