With an uptick in random highway shootings nationwide there’s an increasing concern among the drivers who spend the most time on those highways – truckers.
Jon Osburn, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association senior member said there is considerable talk among truckers about the new wave of violence.
“The talk now is from drivers that are worried about going into potentially dangerous places,” said Osburn. “Seasoned truckers of all types talk to me every day. They don’t want to deliver or pick up in those cities, the places where demonstrators are blocking highway, shooting and throwing things.”
Osburn was referring to highway shootings at truckers in the Phoenix area and a UPS driver in St. Louis who was randomly shot.
Recently, Land Line magazine polled readers on its website, asking if their truck had ever been shot at or was a rock-throwing target. Of those who responded, 51.72 percent said yes, 31.03 percent said no, and 17.24 percent said they thought so, but weren’t sure.
The rash of random shootings and rock-throwings on our interstates has become a growing concern to truckers, motorists, law enforcement and anyone who spends any amount of time on our nation’s highways. All drivers – and passengers – are at risk. But truckers are especially at risk since there are more than 500,000 of them on the road driving day and night. Sometimes the result is broken glass.
Sometimes, it’s worse. Last year, a 68-year-old truck driver was shot in the face while driving on the Dan Ryan Expressway in Chicago. Police said someone in a passenger car pulled alongside and opened fire, shattering the driver’s-side window. It was the third expressway shooting in Chicago in a week, although the other two did not involve truckers. This year alone there have been at least 20 highway shootings in the Chicago area.
This sounds like a big number but California’s Bay Area has had 28 highway shootings since November, most of them on I-80.
Meanwhile, in February, drivers on Highway 75 in Tulsa County, Okla., were terrorized for two nights. Nearly a dozen Wal-Mart trucks and two cars were fired upon by two 14-year-old boys who were out hunting and decided to have some firing at vehicles.
How Safe Are Truckers Inside Their Trucks?
The idea that truckers are safer from bullets inside their cabs than car drivers is not true, according to safety experts.
“Truck drivers are no safer than any other driver,” said Wayne Brown, president of Bodyguard Armoring in Austin, Texas. “A .22 will go right through a truck door or window.”
Brown, in the business of bullet-proofing vehicles for clients, said the cost of making a truck cab and its glass safe from bullets and even rocks is often prohibitive because of the use of Kevlar composite. There are lower cost options, such as installing multi-layered flat polycarbonate panels behind a truck’s OEM glass.
For the most part, truckers need to aware of their surroundings and alert for anything usual. Even then, it’s mostly a matter of luck since the threat of a random shooting is nearly impossible to detect or prevent.
What Do You Do If You're Fired Upon?
All law enforcement officials and safety experts agree that the most important thing a driver can do if shots are fired at their vehicle is to contact police immediately and get as much information as possible.
“If you are getting shot at while driving, continue driving as efficiently and safely as possible,” said OOIDA Director of Safety and Security Operations Doug Morris. “Call 911 with your location and follow the instructions of the police dispatcher. If you know the shooter’s general location, report that to police as well. When in a safe area you may also want to warn other drivers on the CB if you have one.”
Morris said if you find bullet holes in your truck or trailer, contact police and file a report of where and when it occurred, if possible. Of course, if you are driving and you are hit, or a passenger is hit, pull to a safe area and call 911, if possible.
A number of carriers with satellite communications in each truck have a personal danger code on onboard computers. PeopleNet, for example, has one for drivers if they are in personal danger. Qualcomm has a “Macro” number if a driver is hurt or deathly ill and needs immediate help.
Some truckers wonder if they can call 911 from their cell phone from anywhere. The answer is yes, unless you’re in a dead zone. Federal Communications Commission requires that wireless service providers complete the 911 call, whether you subscribe to that provider’s service or not. When placing a 911 call from a cell phone, you need to be prepared to give your phone number and specific location. If you cannot talk, emergency responders are faced with the challenge of finding you. The good news is that the FCC does require your wireless service provider to provide accurate location information.
Increasingly, truckers are arming themselves as a means of protection. But gun laws vary from state-to-state and crossing state lines carrying a loaded weapon, even if you have a permit, can be a problem. Truckers need to know the laws before they carry a loaded weapon in their rig.
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