In a series of reports, motoring and trucking news outlet Transportation Nation Network noted that within the past few weeks, violence against truck drivers had a notable uptick, a couple of which have been deemed life-threatening and even fatal.
One such incident, which happened in a Chicago suburb, involved a 58-year-old male who was found dead in the cab of his truck. The victim, who was not identified, suffered a gunshot wound, Illinois police have said.
A similar incident happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where a truck driver ended up in the hospital after attempting to thwart a robbery of his semi-truck. According to authorities, a motorist pulled up alongside the victim’s semi and attempted to steal tools from the truck.
As reported by local news outlet KTUL, the suspect ran over the truck driver after the latter noticed the robbery. According to authorities, the semi driver went through the windshield as the suspect drove across the street to a field.
Aside from violent crime, truck drivers must also be able to handle situations involving protesters, according to Collin Mooney, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.
“Even a peaceful protest can transition pretty quickly into a violent situation. I recommend if any truckers are operating in any area where protests are gathering or plan to gather, avoid the area altogether. Not just for their safety, but for preserving the equipment and supplies as well,” Mooney said, referring to an incident wherein trucker and independent contractor Bogdan Vechirko nearly drove an 18-wheeler into a large group of protesters in Minneapolis.
The incident, which took place two months ago, did not result in any injuries among the protesters. It did, however, result in the 35-year-old Vechirko sustaining physical injuries after he was pulled out of his cab and beaten by several protesters before others stepped in to shield him.
This incident, which ended with Vechirko being released without charges, has since spurred discussions as to how truckers should act when confronted with protesters.
"We will defend ourselves every time, up to and including, using our 80,000-pound trucks and its 1,800 foot-pounds of torque to run you over. We don't want to, but will if we have to, to save our own life," Mark Staite, a truck driver who mentors young people joining the trucking industry through a small trucking-education group on Facebook and YouTube, said in a Facebook post that has since gone viral. (Related: Trucking company halts deliveries to cities that are pushing to defund or abolish the police.)
Despite his jarring message, however, Staite maintains that he is not calling for violence, noting in an interview that the preservation of safety is of paramount importance.
"That's not the point here. We, as professional drivers, don't want to run people over," Staite said, noting in his viral Facebook post that truck drivers will not be this generation's version of Reginald Denny – a reference to an incident in 1992 wherein Denny, a truck driver, was surrounded by an angry mob protesting the acquittal of the four police officers who were filmed brutally beating Rodney King, an African-American man.
As detailed in several articles, a group of men forcibly pulled Denny out of his trailer before beating him nearly to death on live television. Denny, as a result of the incident, would come away with severe and permanent brain damage and 91 skull fractures.
In response to the violence faced by truck drivers and in the wake of the Vechirko incident, the American Trucking Associations, ATA Safety Management Council (SMC) and the ATA Transportation Security Council (TSC) have released a list of recommendations and tips on how to avoid unsafe situations, as well as advice on what to do in the event that truckers find themselves amid a rioting mob.
According to the ATA, drivers and dispatchers must avoid protest areas altogether, or, if unable to do so, simply stay in contact with other drivers and their contacts in order to provide travel updates. In addition, drivers and dispatchers must also contact delivery locations and ask for current situations and conditions.
The ATA also recommends that carriers tell their drivers to immediately call 911 if they feel like they are in danger of being surrounded by rioters or violent mobs.
In addition, the Iowa Motor Truck Association has urged its members to stop as soon as they see masses of people blocking the roadways and look for ways to avoid a confrontation.
“Do whatever [is] necessary to change directions and get out of the area,” the IMTA said. “If you are alert, you should be able to see these masses of people far enough in advance that you can act before being surrounded.”
YouTube personality Red Viking Trucker has also aired advice for truckers in the event that they encounter violent groups on their trips.
One thing drivers should never attempt, he said in a video, is to assume that violent people can be reasoned with.
“If someone is comfortable enough to break into your vehicle, break into your house or shoot at you, get into your truck in the middle of the night -- if that person is comfortable doing that, they’re not a reasonable person. If you try and think that you can make them see the error of their ways, you are a statistic waiting to happen,” he said.