A couple of trainers on the forum said they educate women trainees on personal safety over the road. One of them admitted he never considered it until a female student pointed out the potential risk of walking between trailers in the dark. From that point on he decided to teach his students about being aware of one's surroundings.
What I thought was human nature or instinct seems to be a by-product of me growing up in New Jersey. However, few seem to consider that the potential risk for harm also exists for men. It seems that firearms discussions pop up occasionally, and many men react with anger for not being allowed to carry guns on the truck. So the concern for personal safety is on the mind of some men as well. Because of this, I felt the need to discuss personal safety for all truck drivers.
No matter where I am, I constantly scan my surroundings on all sides of me. I'll never forget a dark, snowy night at a Sunoco Truck Stop in Bath, NY. I noticed a driver following me, and although early evening, we were the only ones in the lot. It made me uneasy as I pushed the truck key between the knuckles of my closed fist, ready to thrust the large point of the key into his eyes or throat.
After another few steps I realized he was literally following in my footsteps, my new imprints upon freshly fallen snow. I sort of chuckled at my caution when I stepped to the side to allow him to pass me, and he grumbled under his breath. He waited a moment then went ahead.
As he sat across from me at the lunch counter inside the restaurant, he asked why I wouldn't allow him to use my footprints. After all, I had well constructed boots and he was wearing sneakers. A look of shock rippled across his face when I explained I sensed danger and was prepared to take him down by any means necessary. Apparently this guy wasn't from the Philadelphia or New York Metro areas, cause he looked terrified. Better for me to scare him, than for me to be a victim. He probably never followed a woman again across a lot.
Rest areas can be especially dangerous at night. Some do not even have doors from the outside into the restroom, just an open wall. If at all possible, I avoid getting out of the truck in dark rest areas. A scene from one of the Halloween movies showed a woman in a rest area stall while Michael Myers loomed outside the stall door. Luckily for her, he only wanted to steal her car keys. In the real world, who knows what a perpetrator would want to do?
Early in my career, before I bought a truck commode, I entered a lonely rest area ladies room and propped the trash can against the door to prevent anyone from getting in. If a woman approached, she would understand. If a violent criminal attempted to enter, he would not be getting in while I was vulnerable. Plus, I always carry my phone, so a quick call to 911 could save me.
Beware walking between trailers as someone could be hiding under the trailer or on a catwalk. Once I was parked in Alabama at a Flying J, and the wind rocked my truck while I slept. Then I heard a bang. I jumped up and looked out at the mirrors and didn't see anything. I went back to bed, and I felt the rocking again. This time I knew someone was on my catwalk!
I quickly turned on my truck lights and started the truck. The truck rocked as he jumped down and ran behind us. It scared me enough that I pulled forward into the fuel island, then walked around my entire truck and trailer while under the lights with others present. My fuel cap was off and he must have siphoned about an eighth of a tank of fuel.
That night ended well because I scared him, and I did not get out of the truck until it was safe. An experienced driver would also have considered pulling the 5th wheel locking jaw handle to release the trailer. Pulling out could have cost me an accident on my DAC if I had dropped that trailer. As we gain experience, more things will float through your mind.
Staying in the open as much as possible as well as wearing reflective clothing will deter would-be assailants. It also reduces your risks of getting hit by a truck in a parking lot. In the dark, one might not see two people with dark clothing wrestling. However, if a driver saw a yellow reflective jacket rolling around on the ground in the distance, I'm sure curiosity would make them wonder what was going on and inquire. At least it would entice someone to holler out, asking if the person on the ground needed help or was sick, even if the attacker was impossible to see.
I have been criticized in the past for saying this, but when doing a pre-trip inspection at night, I find it safer to roll into the fuel aisle. I normally stay at Petro's and TA's with 250+ parking spaces and 10 fuel lanes. At 0200, there is hardly a mad rush for the fuel lanes, so taking twenty minutes for my inspection is not going to delay others. However, it could save me from getting mugged, injured, or killed.
So many forum conversations debate the need for firearms on the road, and coming from a very Blue Democratic state, I never understood this. Guns are not a way of life for us the way they are in other states, because of this, I think I have a vivid imagination for making use of the things around me as protection devices.
Truckers have so many items at their disposal that are normal everyday tools for us, but could also act as weapons. Think about it, the long metal rod type of tire gauge could put a nice dent in someone's head. What is a cop going to say? "You are getting arrested for fighting off an attacker while doing your pre-trip inspection?"
Tire thumpers, wire cutters, even our padlocks can be weapons. I often walk with my middle finger through the padlock hole, cradling the lock in my palm. That lock weighs a few pounds. If someone jumps me, their head will be bleeding. "I was carrying the lock into the truck stop to see if I could find an identical one. This one keeps jamming and freezing in the winter, I think it is getting old. Then this guy attacked me."
I also carry a very large flashlight at night, and sometimes a hammer in my jacket pocket or up my sleeve. In the event someone chases me, you better believe if I throw a hammer through a windshield or run and smash some headlights, truckers are going to wake up and scare away an attacker. Big deal, I have to pay for some damage, I would rather do that than get raped or killed.
There are many everyday items that can be used as weapons for self defense:
Criminals hate attention. If were to get attacked, make as much noise as possible. One of my female friends has one of those Screaming Meanie alarms with a panic button on it that she keeps in her pocket. Having a metal item like a hammer or flashlight would come in handy also.
If you're in trouble, keep hitting anything metal you run past: dumpsters, trailers, trucks, etc. The most important thing to remember is to yell, "Fire!" People do not always respond to "Help!" But alerting people to a fire puts them in danger. Again, it is easier to explain the situation after, than to be taken to the hospital after an assault.
Not all trucks have curtains on the windows. Using Velcro and bed sheets to cover the windows not only can keeps out the sunlight for better sleep, but keeps the thieves from scoping your belongings. If you do not cover the windows, be sure to keep wallets, laptops, cell phones, and GPS's out of sight from anyone standing on your door steps looking inside. Don't just lock your doors, but if nervous or concerned, use the seat belt straps through the door handles to prevent the doors from being opened from the outside. Yes, someone could still smash your windows, but a hit in the head with a hammer or fire extinguisher will certainly ruin their night.
For this reason, I always sleep with a hammer on my nightstand next to my sleeper. Consider what you will do if someone does open your doors. In my International or in some Kenworths the sleeper windows can be used as an escape hatch. The Freightliner Cascadia windows are so small my leg couldn't fit, so escape is impossible. At that point, a fight to the death is going to ensue, so always have a plan.
When I heard that guy on my catwalk, the first thing I thought was that I could strangle him with my extension cord or trailer air hoses. When we drive we always imagine an "out" for emergencies, accidents, or stupid drivers cutting us off. But we also need an "out" in the event someone wants to do us harm.
Many of you are military veterans and are probably coming up with options I haven't mentioned. Others are probably appalled and terrified that I've put this much thought into this. Others are thinking I'm just plain crazy and there is no way any of us could do this, including me.
Well I've had a gun put to my head three times, but was never shot due to my quick thinking. One stupid and poorly skilled mugger tried to pull my purse off my shoulder and after I stabbed him with my car key and kicked him repeatedly, he was arrested. The officer laughed and suggested the guy plead guilty as to not be embarrassed in court at the video footage of him getting beat by a woman.
After 9/11 while on a layover in the Vegas airport, I reported a suspicious man with a package in his bag. He kept fidgeting and his supposed itinerary had him go through 10 different US cities in less than 2 weeks. He also claimed to be from Belize, but his passport was from Columbia. When I reported him, the police walked by but did not even question him.
An hour later, he dropped his bag and something fell out of his bag. It looked like something Rambo would've had. I yelled, "Gun!" and tackled that man to the ground. I soon found myself in custody for assaulting a man over a water pistol, a fairly realistic water pistol that should never have gotten past security.
My point is, you never know what you are capable of until it happens. Always be prepared, always be alert, and always have a plan. No one is going to take care of you out here but you. Although I may have painted a gloomy picture of life on the road, the truth is, dangers lie everywhere. Even at home, the guy next door can be a serial killer. None of John Wayne Gacy's neighbors suspected him of having 30 dead bodies under his floors. Suspect everyone, trust no one, and always be prepared.