Safety for Women's Sake
The responsibilities and dangers that drivers face vary only slightly between the sexes. While men also need to take charge of their safety in truck stops and other public places, women have a greater vulnerability in similar circumstances. Some women simply do not have the physical strength and ability needed to defend themselves in a compromising situation.
The first step in securing your safety is taking preventive measures to avoid all awkward circumstances. Secondly, get back to the basics. What I mean by that is actually doing your pre–trip inspections, your safety checks, and load securement instead of just drawing a line in your logbook to satisfy DOT requirements. Taking preventive measures and using good common sense will greatly reduce your chances of compromising your safety. Outlined below are just a few of the ordinary encounters you may face and a few suggestions for handling them.
Be the Professional You Are
Having and projecting self–confidence in yourself, your job and your abilities is a primary key to your safety. Utilizing good eye contact and a professional demeanor will ward off most trouble makers. Conduct yourself like the professional driver you are. Avoid inappropriate language or flirtations with your co–workers.
As a lady driver, never advertise that you are alone, whether you're at a truck stop, shipper or receiver, or on the CB. Always let others think there is someone with you at all times, even if it means avoiding the truth. Always pull your privacy curtains shut when parked. Constantly know your surroundings and, most importantly, follow your gut instinct. If something doesn't "feel" right, it probably isn't.
An emergency situation will occur at some point in your truck–driving career. Whether it's a breakdown on a deserted highway, an accident or just a flat tire, it will eventually happen. Your driver manager or company's repair shop should be one of the first notified in the event of a breakdown. Secondly, notify appropriate emergency personnel in emergency situations. Stay with your truck and trailer when possible and never climb into a stranger's vehicle. Good citizens abound on the road, but so do bad ones. Once again, using your gut instinct in such situations may be your best choice.
Don't Follow the Crowd
Long trips can sometimes be shortened by taking back roads, but this should be avoided. Experienced drivers rarely hesitate to take a back road if they know their terrain and sometimes coax other drivers into following them. However, before taking off onto a side road, think of the consequences first:
1. It's easy to get lost. Since many back roads are not well lit or well traveled, your chances of getting lost have increased if you and the driver ahead of you get separated.
2. Back roads may not be well maintained, allowing for damage to tires and other equipment.
3. Few back roads have places to accommodate parking or fueling for commercial vehicles.
Emergency personnel are not as readily available on back roads, and in some areas, emergency help may not be accessible at all.
That's just a small sampling of the problems that could arise if you decide to take off onto a side road. While it may save mileage, you just might find yourself in a situation that could have been avoided.
Plan Your Trips
Before heading off on a pickup or delivery, plan your trip well. A well–planned trip will include directions to both points. If possible, obtain your own set of driving instructions instead of relying on the undependable instructions that may come over your satellite or someone else's interpretation of how to get from point A to point B. Always talk with the shipper/receiver clerk and not the switchboard operator. Remember that obtaining your directions by the points of east, west, north or south, instead of left and right, may save you some hassle of accidentally going the wrong way. A good set of instructions can keep you from getting lost, which is a situation you don't want to be in.
Always be Visible
Park at the front of the truck stop if possible. The front entrances of most truck stops are well lit, well traveled and provide the closest access to the restrooms. If possible, avoid walking in between trucks where the light is dim.
Park under a light post whenever possible. Always follow the lighted path to the inside of the rest area and stay away from bushes and dimly lit areas. A good investment for all women drivers would be a porta–potty for the cab of your truck.
Never park on a highway entrance or an exit ramp. Not only is this a danger to passing traffic, it is a danger to you because one side of the truck is always invisible.
Lock Your Doors
Always lock your door when exiting your truck. Even if you're just taking a short break at a rest area or parking area, lock your doors anyway.
Inside the Truck
Many states and carriers have established rules and regulations that prohibit you from carrying a gun, loaded or empty, with you in a commercial vehicle. Breaking this rule will result in very steep fines and/or incarceration. Additionally, some knives are also illegal and can carry the same consequences as a gun. Avoid having weapons on your truck.
However, anything can be used as a weapon if used in a personal attack against you, so use your good judgment when deciding what methods of self–defense you will use. MAG flashlights, tire thumpers, screwdrivers or other tools are not questionable items to have inside your truck and it may be to your benefit to keep one or the other close by. Cleaners or other aerosol sprays can also be used to deter an attack and are common items to have along.
General Safety Guidelines
Below are just a few of the many ways you can keep yourself from getting in a situation that may compromise your safety. Most carriers have safety guidelines to avoid possible injury or death––follow them! Those guidelines were given for a reason and many of them were implemented as a result of an injury or death. Always keep in mind that troublemakers sometimes "prey" on the injured and weak, so always take precautions to avoid personal injury.
1. Secure your load tightly. Whether load locks, chains, cargo straps or tarps, use them. Never compromise a load or your safety by having freight fall on you.
2. Common courtesy among truck drivers is to never ask what type of load another driver is carrying. However, truck hijackings are increasing and it is always best to avoid discussing the contents of your trailer with anyone.
3. Never compromise in doing your tire and safety checks when under a hazardous materials loads (for obvious reasons).
4. When exiting and entering the cab or trailer, always do so in a safe manner. Never jump out of your truck or trailer for, when you do, your chances of injury are increased.
5. Carry a cell phone or other communication device if finances allow.
6. In winter conditions, always keep at least three days worth of nonperishable food in storage. Long delays and breakdowns in cold weather are a reality and it's always best to be prepared for the worst.
As stated before, using good judgment is always your best method in remaining safe. Avoid personal injury at all costs and use common sense when driving in compromising situations. I heard a driver once say, "It's not if you will be put into a compromising situation, but when." While this may be true, you can avoid and possibly eliminate your chances of bad situations when you think through your actions first.