We are living in a world full of nut-jobs. Maybe there’s something floating around in the air beyond COVID-19? Maybe we’re seeing the beginning of a zombie apocalypse of sorts? Not the laughably slow Dawn of the Dead zombies, but those really scary fast ones from 28 Days Later that are infected by some sort of rage virus.
Whatever the cause, there is no doubt that it’s a crazy time to be a truck driver. If you pay attention to the trucking industry news at all, you will have seen far too many stories of truckers pulling guns on each other, trainees stabbing their trainer to death, various muggings, and beatdowns by security guards.
If that weren’t bad enough, now we have to worry about protesters blocking roadways and yanking innocent truckers out of their cabs and mobbing them.
Let me take a quick tangent here to address the current Black Lives Matter protests.
I have no problem with folks protesting against police brutality. If a cop is abusing their power, then they need to lose their job and not be protected by their fellow cops. Doesn’t matter what color the victim of that abuse is. So, yeah, keep it up if you’re going about this in a peaceful way.
However, if you’re “peacefully protesting” by blocking a public roadway, then you’re out of line. The First Amendment clearly gives you the right to assemble and protest, but only to the extent that you don’t violate someone else’s rights. All motorists, including truckers, have a right to use that roadway without having to worry about running over people standing in the middle of traffic.
As for those who are looting in the name of Black Lives Matter, you are an embarrassment and a distraction to the real cause. You are thugs and thieves looking for a way to justify your actions. Unless of course you can explain the logic behind looting and trashing innocent local businesses and retailers like a Nike store, which has always supported your heroes like Colin Kaepernick. Makes no sense.
And back to truckers, how does looting freight from innocent truckers further the cause of weeding out bad cops? It doesn’t. So just admit what it is; an excuse to steal.
For the record, you don’t need to steal if you go out and get a job. Have you ever considered truck driving for a living? There are plenty of jobs to be had out here. Of course you haven’t. That would require some ambition and real work. Okay, rant over.
So with this new threat to truckers coming from an unexpected source, I started thinking about personal safety tips for truckers.
What can you do to prepare yourself for these dangerous times?
Disclaimer: Finding information on what kind of weapons are allowed in a commercial vehicle is difficult at best. I’ve always been a company driver and I’ve asked many of my employers and really the only universal truth I’ve found is that 100% of them prohibit firearms in their trucks, but tire thumpers are okay.
When asking about knives, Tasers, pepper spray, and the likes, I’ve always gotten wishy-washy answers that aren’t really answers at all. You can tell they’d just prefer you curl up into a ball and not defend yourself when attacked than to approve you having anything resembling a weapon in your truck. Feel free to ask your company what they will allow and if you get a solid answer, please email me at TruckerDump@gmail.com to let me know.
You’d think the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA would want to weigh in on this, but they are remarkably silent on the subject of weapons in commercial vehicles. The only place I’ve found the word “weapon” in the DOT regulations is when it’s talking about the truck itself being used as a weapon by terrorists. So they’re no help on the subject.
So with that being said, let’s brainstorm this subject and hopefully you can make some smart decisions that will work for you.
Let’s start out with the obvious and debunk a longstanding trucking myth. Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT illegal to carry firearms in your truck, provided that you abide by all state and local ordinances. That right there is the problem; these rules vary from state-to-state and it’s not easy to keep up with.
I mean, honestly, are you really going to pull over at the state line and unload your handgun until you get to the other side of the state? Or put it in a gun safe while crossing a state? Probably not.
So instead you leave it loaded all the time, which is effectively illegal in many states. So now you’re breaking the law. Toss in the differing rules for those truckers with Concealed Carry Permits and now your head starts spinning. But hey, an unloaded gun is about as useless as a styrofoam pickaxe, right?
This “no guns in trucks” myth gained ground largely because most trucking companies do not allow their employees to carry firearms in their trucks. I’ve never seen a stated reason why this is, but I suspect it is simply a matter of not wanting to hassle with their driver employees keeping abreast of all the state firearms laws.
Also, they probably want to avoid getting into any situation where you have to use the firearm and the lawsuits that would likely point at them for allowing you to have it in the truck. Like many restrictions in the trucking industry, it ultimately comes down to an issue of reduced liability.
Should you carry a firearm?
If you are an owner/operator, the choice is yours. Carrying a gun is only a matter of learning the different state laws and following them to the best of your ability.
Company drivers have a bigger choice to make. You can choose to carry a firearm because technically it isn’t illegal to do so. But since it is usually against company policy, you’ll likely get fired if you ever have to use it to defend yourself. But as a friend of mine likes to say, “I’d rather be judged by twelve than carried by six.”
That’s a great point. I mean, if you find yourself in a position where you just saved yourself from personal harm or possibly death, do you really give a crap that you just lost your job?
I’m not telling you it’s okay to break company policy. But I’m also telling you that in my 23 years of truck driving, I’ve never had a company representative search the truck I’m driving for anything; let alone a firearm. At least not to my knowledge.
So if you don’t leave your Glock laying out on the passenger seat in plain view while you’re at a company terminal then hey, whatever trips your trigger…
Next on the list of fatal weapons would be knives. Another long-time myth is that you can carry a knife as long as the blade isn’t longer than 3 inches. I can’t find anything online or in the regulations to back that up.
As far as I can tell, this again is up to each state. For instance, I read that Texas will allow a blade up to 5.5 inches as long as it’s carried in a pouch on your belt. So that blows that myth.
My thoughts here are that, much like a firearm that is out-of-sight out-of-mind, having a small blade would be a good thing to have.
I keep a small pocketknife with a stout blade similar to this one (Amazon affiliate link) in my pocket that that will lock when the blade is exposed. It probably wouldn’t kill anyone unless I stabbed them in the eyeball, but it will certainly deter them if they see it or I give them a good jab with it.
If anyone ever jumps onto my running board, that will likely be one of the first things I grab for. If they stick an arm or their head through my window I’ll cut them like a sushi chef with a tuna filet.
We have to be reasonable here folks. If a DOT officer ever asks you if you have any weapons, I doubt they’re going to get too bent out of shape if you have a pocketknife with a 3-inch blade, but they might question your motives if you’ve got a machete mounted to your driver’s seat.
Another way to justify a good knife to a police officer is to have something that would serve a trucker as a safety device like this cool 3-in-1 tactical knife that has a window glass breaker, a seat belt cutter, and a serrated blade like this one (Amazon affiliate link). This one is on my birthday wish list. How could they argue with you wanting to rescue yourself from a fiery wrecked truck?
And remember, a screwdriver will jab into an eyeball just as well as a knife will… possibly better. Boy will that guy be screwed (sorry – I couldn’t help myself).
The great thing about having a Taser as part of your arsenal is that you can disable an attacker before they get too close to you. The bad thing is that if you miss your target, you’re out of ammo.
Tasers work by shooting two darts at the assailant which are connected to the pistol-like grip by two thin cables. These cables transfer enough electrical current to immobilize a grown man long enough for you to get away. Hopefully he pees his pants in the process.
Another bad thing is that a few states don’t allow them to be used by average consumers unless you have a concealed carry permit. Others like Massachusetts don’t allow them at all. Check out the Taser website for state requirements.
But perhaps the worst thing about Tasers is the cost. Even an older model is over $400 on Amazon (Amazon affiliate link). Ouch! I’m not sure what would hurt worse; the price or getting zapped by one!
Stun guns with powerful flashlights
Let’s hear this from our first Trucker Dump Facebook Group user:
Why yes they do, Adrian. Yes they do.
Stun guns like this one (Amazon affiliate link) are definitely an option that truckers can consider. Like Adrian said, many models include a standard flashlight, but if you want to double your fun with Doublemint gum, make sure you get a stun gun/flashlight combo with a really bright light like this one (Amazon affiliate link).
This product is a double whammy. If you’ve ever been blasted in the eyes by a bright light, you know how disorienting it can be. That might be just enough time for you to evade a thug’s grasp and run away while he’s seeing spots!
Stun guns are also easier to deal with than Tasers because most states allow them without any special permit. Obviously you need to be aware of the state Taser guidelines. But in all seriousness, if I’m being attacked, my mind isn’t really focused on the legality of the weapon in my hand. I’d zap that sucker and deal with the consequences later.
Another advantage of the stun gun over the Taser is the cost. You can pick up a good stun gun with a bright flashlight for under $50 (Amazon affiliate link). That’s about 1/8 the cost of a Taser!
One disadvantage the stun gun has to the Taser is that in order to stun an attacker, you need to be close enough to make contact with the person. Hopefully, it will never get to that point, but if it does, light that sucker up!
Pepper spray is a great option for the cost-conscience trucker who still wants some personal protection. You can get it quite readily for under $10 (Amazon affiliate link).
Pepper spray is a chemical agent that when sprayed near the face will cause pain, burning, and temporary blindness, which is a result of inflammation of the eyes. It also causes burning of the lungs which leads to shortness of breath, which is something that will come in handy as you’re trying to run away with your own shortness of breath caused by sitting on your trucker butt for 11 hours per day.
Furthermore, pepper spray is legal in all 50 states, although some have certain restrictions such as the size of the spray bottle or an age requirement to carry.
What’s great about pepper spray is it’s inexpensive and you can use it from up to 10 feet away. Just make sure that nozzle is pointing away from you when you start the hose-down!
Speaking of stuff that sprays, Adrian Shipek from the Trucker Dump Facebook Group says:
Ya think, Adrian? 😉 Well I guess if you’re desperate you can go all MacGyver on a bad guy. But ouch… just ouch. LOL
This is probably the weapon most truckers already have. But don’t settle for any old tire thumper! Let’s get creative!
Paul Derkatch from the Trucker Dump Facebook Group says:
Or if you want to add a little extra punch to your baseball-themed “tire thumping,” you can always upgrade to an aluminum version (Amazon affiliate link). Batta-batta-batta, saaaah-wing, batta.
Other trucker “tools”
Cannon Bryan from the Trucker Dump Slack Group says:
Sure, why not, Cannon. I mean, we do need to pull nails from the trailer floor now and then, right? It’s just a pleasant perk that either end of that bad boy framing hammer (Amazon affiliate link) could be used to bash in a criminal’s skull, as proven several times over by The Walking Dead television show.
If you’re going for the ultimate trucker tool (Amazon affiliate link) you should check out this hammer/pry bar/axe tool that looks like it belongs in a dungeon of a medieval castle or maybe something you might want to take to a ceremony to sacrifice a virgin by a volcano.
I can hear it now, “Why yes officer, I realize there’s an axe blade on there. You never know when you might be stranded in North Dakota and need to chop down a tree to build a fire, right?” Nevermind the fact that you’d be hard-pressed to find a tree in North Dakota.
I have to admit that this next one kinda snuck up on me.
Dave White from the Trucker Dump Facebook Group says:
Trucker Dump Facebook Group member Andrew Aycock put it a bit more bluntly by suggesting:
Cheesy blunt pun intended by me. Andrew played no part in the cheesiness.
Jeff Hardy from the Trucker Dump Facebook Group agrees:
I pity the fool that messes with these guys!
Paul Derkatch from the Trucker Dump Facebook Group has yet another use for it:
According to 49 CFR Part 393.95, the minimum requirement for a commercial vehicle not hauling hazardous materials is one fire extinguisher with a minimum rating of 5 B:C, while a hazmat load requires one with 10 B:C minimum.
For the record, the number stands for how many square feet of fire the device is capable of extinguishing. As you can see, 5-10 square feet isn’t much, so you may as well not bother putting on your toy fireman’s helmet the next time you see a trailer engulfed in flames on the shoulder of an interstate. You might as well go up and pee on it for all the good it will do.
The B and the C stands for what kinds of fires can be put out. The B means flammable liquids can be quenched and C is good for electrical equipment. So that’s good to know. Click here for more on how to read a fire extinguisher.
You know, that weapon… I mean fire extinguisher, has been sitting beneath me for 23 years and never once had I thought to use it as a weapon. But it would clearly work for every trucker.
Not only is it free to every trucker, but the spray causes just enough discomfort to an attacker for you to escape without causing them permanent damage. Not that they deserve that nicety. But hey, that dent in his skull from swinging it down on his head could be another story entirely.
Perhaps best of all, Paul Derkatch from the Trucker Dump Facebook Group reminds us that:
Heck; if they’re anything like me for the past 23 years, they won’t even see that as a possibility.
How about a few trailer hacks now…
Red F. Griffin from the Trucker Dump Facebook Group has a good one:
Well Red, we all know that from trying to unhook a stubborn fifth wheel, but I never thought of it as a personal safety tip. But it would certainly work.
We’ve all seen the videos of these “protestors” trying to unhook the tractor from the trailer while it’s slowly trying to make its way through a crowd of people. They could just as easily try it while you’re parked. Good luck with that if you use Red’s tip. Thanks Red!
Dave White from the Trucker Dump Facebook Group has another tip on parking:
Well I don’t know about the Walmart with all the truck booting that’s been going on lately, but I get the gist of what you’re saying, Dave.
Adrian Shipek from the Trucker Dump Facebook Group has yet another trailer hack:
Excellent tip, Adrian. This one reminds me of putting a home security sign in your front yard even though you don’t really have a security system installed. The thieves will always go for the point of least resistance. Hopefully they’ll see your zip ties/clamps and move on to the next truck… not that we wish anything bad on the next trucker. But hey, better them that you, right?!
Here’s another tip for those times when you’re sleeping…
Dave White from the Trucker Dump Facebook Group has an idea:
Well apparently that works because Gwyn Vela from the Trucker Dump Slack Group says:
Trevor Dunkel from the Trucker Dump Facebook Group has an idea for a variation on that:
Yes, you can, Trevor. I’ve been known to loop the seatbelts through the door handle and latch them when I’m in a seedy area. Gives me just a bit of extra security knowing that there will be an extra step for a perp to swing that door open.
But Travis Jellison from the Trucker Dump Facebook Group (and also the subject of the previous episode TD145: Being An Oversize/Overweight Load Truck Driver) makes a point when he rebutted with:
Well honestly, the chances of anyone breaking into your truck are probably as slim as your truck catching on fire, but that is something to think about, so thanks Travis. And yes, a bad guy can break a window and cut a strap or seatbelt, but again, that’s one extra step they have to take before getting to me.
Also, if you’ve watched any of these videos recently, it’s apparently a lot harder to bust out a window than the movies make it out to be. You can where they are throwing stuff and the windshield and the side windows and I didn’t see anything shattering.
How about some safety tips for outside the truck…
Paul Derkatch from the Trucker Dump Facebook Group says:
That’s a good idea, Paul. Sometimes it isn’t a criminal who does you harm, but a careless trucker going too fast in a truck stop parking lot. I have a co-worker who was hit by a yard truck at one of our terminals. He’s had hip damage and pain ever since. It’s a possibility that some high visibility clothing might have prevented that.
Andrew Aycock from the Trucker Dump Facebook Group reminds us to:
Yep. Again, criminals look for easy targets. If you show awareness and look them in the eye, they’re far less likely to choose you as their next victim. Unless of course, you’re giving them the stink-eye
Jeff Hardy from the Trucker Dump Facebook Group concurs:
I’m going to agree with everything you said, Jeff, despite the fact that you just described me. LOL Seriously though, that’s a great tip and great way to end this blog post. And by the way, I don’t waddle… yet.
Don’t forget the obvious
Folks, we just need to make a little effort to prepare ourselves for the worst. I and everyone else guilty of phone distraction needs to pull our heads out our keisters and focus on our surroundings.
Don’t forget the obvious things like parking in well-lit areas and parking close to the building. Choose to walk around the row of trucks instead of through the dark walkways between trucks.
Also there is strength in numbers. You’re far more likely to get mugged while you’re parked on a side street in an industrial park than you are at a well-lit truck stop or rest area.
Yes, I realize that I stated in TD129: 4 Ways To Become A More Efficient Trucker that I like to park at shippers/receivers to save my driving hours, but you have to be smart about that. Park inside their gate if you can and don’t park near the road if you have that option. Out-of-sight, out-of-mind, you know.
Final thoughts on personal safety tips for truckers
Listen; there are nut bags everywhere out here nowadays. Keep a low profile and avoid confrontation like I talked about in TD132: Should We Call Out Bad Truckers. An inconsiderate truck driver being a butt munch just isn’t worth your life or your well-being.
As for these thugs, well, just be prepared by following some of these tips you’ve just read. That way when some worthless excuse of a human being tries to enter your truck, you can break their arm with your tire thumper and spray them in the face with your pepper spray.
If they keep coming after all that, well, what the heck, go ahead and get out your aerosol can of Aqua Net hairspray and a Zippo and light them up! But then be a sweetheart and use your fire extinguisher to put out the flames. We aren’t animals, you know.
But wait. Maybe you’d better go ahead and zap them with your stun gun a couple of times… just to be on the safe side.
Do you have more personal safety tips for truckers that we didn’t cover? Please share your comments below or send me an email at TruckerDump@gmail.com and I’ll share them on a future episode of the Trucker Dump Podcast!
Podcast show notes:
Boy oh boy, have we got a good show today. We’re going to talk about personal safety tips for truckers and some of you are going to be a part of it.
But before that we’ve got news stories about truck drivers and protestors, inspections and ELD coercion, more deadline extensions, and electric trucks.
We’ll also talk about health issues including sleep apnea and amputees getting CDLs. Marijuana use is on the rise too, which makes sense with the insane changes to liability insurance the government is trying to make.
We’ll also discuss the government owning part of a major trucking company through a controversial bailout deal and how changes in routing could change the future for truckers.
Top it off with a few emails from you and we’ll wrap it up.
Listen to the podcast version or read the full article and the podcast show notes on AboutTruckDriving.com or search for Trucker Dump in your favorite podcast app.
Be sure to check out the 25% off ebook combo pack for Trucking Life and How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job while you’re there.
This episode of Trucker Dump is sponsored by:
- Pilot Flying J app– Check out all the awesome features of the Pilot Flying J app.
- Volvo Trucks– Check out the new Volvo Dynamic Steering on the VNL and VNR series and watch the all the videos on the Volvo YouTube page.
Links mentioned in the news segment:
Surviving a Level 3 driver inspection: Are you ready? from OverdriveOnline.com
Truck driver safety a top priority amid nationwide protests from FleetOwner.com
‘He didn’t get the signal’: Trucker arrested for driving into MN protests released without charges from OverdriveOnline.com
Staying safe during civil protests when avoidance not possible from OverdriveOnline.com
Wyoming DOT closing 10 rest areas, eliminating 80 truck parking spaces from OverdriveOnline.com
The irony of e-logging and coercion: Complaints on a steady rise since mandate from OverdriveOnline.com
FMCSA Says Congress Can’t Make Them Delay HOS Changes, Expects Rollout To Proceed As Planned from TheTruckersReport.com
Truck Driver Training, License Renewal, Medical Certification Waivers Get Another Extension from TheTruckersReport.com
Evidence emerges of stricter approach – and confusion – around sleep apnea screening from OverdriveOnline.com
Trucking Law: Severe physical setback might not end career from OverdriveOnline.com
Marijuana Use Top Finding in First Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse Report from TruckingInfo.com
Rise in marijuana use among truckers expected to continue from OverdriveOnline.com
Amendment Passed To Double Mandatory Insurance Minimums for Truckers To $2 Million from TheTruckersReport.com
Liability insurance hike: Guess who would benefit? from OverdriveOnline.com
YRC getting $700 million government bailout for nearly 30% stake in fleet
House Democrats Will Call for 100% Clean Cars by 2035 from ttnews.com (Transport Topics)
West Coast Utilities Offer Plan for Charging Stations Along Interstate 5
from ttnews.com (Transport Topics)
DOT Launches AV Test Initiative from ttnews.com (Transport Topics)
FHWA Grant Supports Automated Truck Corridor on Interstate 70 from ttnews.com (Transport Topics)
Industry Trends, Driver Preference Pave Way for Hub-to-Hub Routes from ttnews.com (Transport Topics)
Links mentioned in the main topic:
Learn more about Tasers
49 CFR Part 393.95 explaining DOT fire extinguisher requirements
Below are all the Amazon Affiliate links mentioned in the show. And a reminder that the seller pays my meager referral fee, not you.
A small pocketknife similar to the one I own (Amazon affiliate link)
3-in-1 tactical knife with window breaker, seat belt cutter, and serrated blade (Amazon affiliate link)
Taser (Amazon affiliate link)
Basic stun gun with flashlight (Amazon affiliate link)
Stun gun with super-bright flashlight (Amazon affiliate link)
Pepper spray (Amazon affiliate link)
Wooden baseball bat tire thumper (Amazon affiliate link)
Aluminum baseball bat tire thumper (Amazon affiliate link)
Framing hammer (Amazon affiliate link)
Small crow bar (Amazon affiliate link)
Large crow bar (Amazon affiliate link)
Flatbedder pry bar (Amazon affiliate link)
3-in-1 trucker tool with a hammer, and axe, and a pry bar (Amazon affiliate link)
Links mentioned in the listener feedback segment:
JJ Perkey asked to join the Trucker Dump Slack group and explains why he prefers to park his truck than to run at a slight loss.
Truitt Ficklin writes and guesses where I work. Uh oh.
Michael Mazur, Jake Ritchie, Pete Ryall, and Austin Anderson all sent quick emails asking to join the Trucker Dump Slack Group. Done deal, guys. Thanks.
Mark Wihowski shares a bit about his driving career and asks to joins the Trucker Dump Slack Group.
Chris Sanzone sells truck insurance and asks to join the Trucker Dump Slack Group. A follow-up email prompts some talk about video games I’m playing.
You can email your comments, suggestions, questions, or insults to TruckerDump@gmail.com
Join the Trucker Dump Facebook Group
Join the Trucker Dump Slack Group by emailing me at TruckerDump@gmail.com
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