Hello, my name is Lura, and I’m a commercial semi truck driver. If you’re a woman looking for an exciting, lucrative career traveling the United States as a truck driver, I want you to know this can be a dangerous job. And there are more threats than you may imagine.
There are steps you can take to avert dangerous situations. First and foremost, this means remaining aware; being vigilant of your surroundings at all times.
Read on, and you will find additional tips that will enable you to foresee danger before it arises…and possibly save your life.
Just To Be Clear…
First I’d like you to take a look at some of the assumptions I’m taking the liberty to use: there are many, many more male truckers than female truckers, making male-on-female harassment potentially more rampant in this industry. Women therefore, need to take more precautions to remain safe.
It is advisable that women, more so than men, add defensive measures to their situational thinking. But I am absolutely saying that men should also take these same precautions always, every day. I am simply writing this column as a woman trucker, aimed toward educating other women truckers.
Carefully Vetting Your Company is Important…
During my research for this article I came across horror stories from throughout the industry. Women being forced to train with males who sexually assaulted them. These allegations were coming from big, well-known companies. One woman was told that the top bunk didn’t work and she would have to sleep in the same bed as her trainer.
Things got about as bad as you can imagine, and more. I was horrified. These women endured “constant endangerment during their training periods, where they were trapped with abusive men in the cab of a truck for weeks on end.” Why didn’t they call for help? Or just get out of the truck? Some did. And of those, some were fired by their company. Some were traumatized by the threats of their male partner and stopped trucking altogether.
Some had an obligation to stay with the company to get their CDL school reimbursement. These women needed these trucking jobs to support their families.
Keep Your Head Up!
I’m not trying to discourage you. I only want you to be aware so you can avoid a bad situation. Being a woman in a male-dominated industry like trucking can be intimidating. I asked for advice from truckers, and, predictably, one of them said the way to keep safe as a woman is to “stay home.” (I’ll make you a damn sammich while I’m there, buddy).
As a woman you’re one of 6-8% of all truckers in the U.S. today. But that in no way means you can’t be safe on the road.
Networking in Trucking is Paramount.
If you’re just starting out, it can take some time to find a female trainer. But don’t let your company force you into a close-quarters situation with a male or even a female you are not comfortable with. Get a good mentor, even if you aren’t in the truck together.
There are a bunch of Facebook groups specifically for female truckers, and websites like the Women in Trucking Association that can help you find a support system of women who know the business and can direct you on how to keep yourself as safe as possible.
The Sexual Harassment Thing…
An issue many of us have to deal with as women in a dominantly male field is harassment. In my experience, most male drivers are good, decent people who will readily aid you if you need help. Recently, a security guy saw I was trying to crank a finicky landing gear, and literally ran up and wordlessly took it out of my hands and lowered it himself.
Kind of strange, but an appreciated gesture. Most people you’ll find on the road are very helpful. But it’s a sad truth that there are certain men who will denigrate a woman’s ability to drive a truck. Turn on your CB radio and you’re likely to hear something blatantly sexist.
A few of these men are actually a danger to others. Stand up for yourself, always be polite and direct with others, but avoid any activity that can be construed as flirtation with anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable.
Keep ’em Rollin’…Safely.
Consider driving evenings/overnights. By the time you finish your shift in the morning, prime parking spots are becoming available. When you do have to stop after dark, always do your best to park in a well-lit area. Most Love’s, Pilots, Petros, and other major fuel stops have good lighting and tend to be less crime-ridden than small mom-and-pop truck stops.
Wherever you park, try to walk around the trucks instead of in between them. When performing your pre- or post-trip inspections, only do so in well-lit areas. Do this in the fuel line if you have to, if the pumps are not crowded. Some rest areas are pretty well-lit, but some are definitely not. Avoid the dimly-lit ones if possible.
When You’re Off-Duty…
One of the most basic things you can do is keep your doors locked whether you’re in the truck or not. A friend of mine recommended threading your seat-belts through the door handles as an extra obstacle for potential intruders. A ratchet strap threaded from door handle to door handle will do an even better job.
That may seem extreme, but if you’re in a bad area, you’re better safe than sorry. When you shower at any truck stop, make extra sure that there is a safety mechanism that locks the door, and engage it. And always take your phone everywhere you go! Learn to use the SOS function on your phone to alert your emergency contacts.
Take Your Protection Seriously!
We are all going to have to park in a potentially unsafe area at some point, though, so this brings me to the next important tip: carry some form of protection. If you can legally carry protection, do it. Go to a self-defense class. I personally have a weapon named Scooter – my protective pit bull.
Nobody is getting close to my truck without my dog going nuts, and that is intimidating to opportunistic criminals. Another option is mace, or something similar. I’ve heard mace isn’t always easy to get, but one driver recommended carrying wasp spray as protection instead. It can potentially blind a person, though, so I’m not sure if this is a good tip or not, but…I’m just saying.
Be Compassionate Always, But Don’t Get Taken Advantage Of…
This may seem obvious, but do not pick up hitchhikers, male or female. And remember, you can’t save the lot lizards. It’s a bad idea to even try. Make it a rule not to let anyone unfamiliar into your truck, and absolutely do not get into anyone else’s truck.
If the Unlikely Does Happen…
If you do get into a bad situation, do whatever you need to do to keep yourself safe. Remain calm. Don’t try to protect your belongings. Draw as much attention as you can if you are attacked. I’ve heard of drivers tying fishing line to their air horn pull cord so it can be pulled from the sleeper.
An extended pull on that thing should piss off enough sleeping truckers to attract a crowd. Don’t be afraid to use force if you must. This is where self-defense classes or some serious form of personal protection can be a life saver. As with anything in life, hope for the best, prepare for the worst
Elevate Your Awareness
If I can give you one final, very important piece of advice, it’s this: get into the habit of thinking smarter. When you’re driving you’re constantly, almost unconsciously, scanning and recognizing potentially dangerous situations. You adjust your speed or position in traffic to avoid getting into a bad spot.
Learn to do the same thing to protect yourself when you aren’t driving. Be vigilant. Constantly gauge potential dangers and avoid putting yourself in a compromising situation. A lot of times, this means trusting your gut instinct (google search “developing intuition” for some interesting exercises).
When you become a trucker, you become a valuable commodity to the industry. Self-confidence goes a long way to keeping you safe, so recognize your worth. It’s sometimes difficult and dirty work…but it’s empowering to look out your window upon an ever-changing landscape and feel the freedom of the open road. Make your personal safety your priority, and be careful out there. Happy trails!
This Article was written by Mrs. Lura Wooliver and posted and published by Semi Truck Driver.com. All graphics, rights and content is the sole property of Semi Truck Driver.com.