Truck Stops: Tips to Safeguard “Your” Home-Away from Home
For as long as trucks have been on the road, truck stops have been around to serve truckers and keep freight moving. They truly are the melting pot of the road, as drivers from all walks of life come in for fuel, a meal or to load up on essential goods. And of course, many spend the night.
If you log enough time on the road you’ve visited your share of truck stops where you’ve likely met some great folks, and maybe even accumulated a few, shall we say interesting, stories along the way. To that end, let’s take a look at a few tips to ensure your next stop is a safe one.
Dealing with Scammers
While most people you’ll encounter at truck stops are honest, it’s still a good idea to keep your head on a ‘swivel.’ The nature of a truck stop – with people constantly coming and going—presents an opportunity for criminals and con artists to take advantage of people they know they’ll never see again.
Scammers typically see you, before you see them. They know that if they can convince you into giving them money for some “great opportunity” either (a) you won’t realize it’s fraud until it’s too late; or (b) they will take off running with your cash before you have a chance to get help.
A few years back, a couple of drivers were approached by a man who claimed another trucker had hit the jackpot at a nearby casino and was handing out cash and a free meal. The catch was, the so-called “jackpot winner” would only match the cash amount the drivers had on them. Once the drivers pulled out their money, the scammer grabbed the cash and ran. No matter how convincing someone’s story is, keep your money in your pocket and simply walk away, or let an employee know.
With smart phones commonplace in the industry, truckers often use their downtime to catch up on their emails and other business-related tasks. Criminals have evolved their tactics by sending out scam opportunities via email or phone call. Oftentimes, these scam emails will ask you to provide personal information or to click on a link. For example, you might receive an email from an unknown user that claims you’ve been selected to receive a reward, and to claim your award, you need to provide classified information. Many of these requests are designed to appear legitimate, but don’t do it. If it seems too good to be true, it most likely is.
The trucking industry has come a long way towards ending the stereotype that truck stops are a breeding ground for prostitution. Many truck stops have installed cameras around the property to make it easier to identify or dissuade criminal activity.
Organizations like Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT), whose mission is to end human trafficking, is playing a huge role by providing education for truck drivers on ways to identify and report signs of human trafficking. And truckers are seizing the opportunity to help combat the crime. To date, more than 2,600 calls from truckers have been made to authorities to report human trafficking in North America.
According to TAT, drivers are doing a tremendous job of raising awareness to the general public by displaying TAT messaging on the sides of their trucks and trailers and by discussing the need to combat the crime with members of their social groups (family, friends, neighborhood, church, etc.).
That said, there is still a lot of work to do to curb the presence of human trafficking. Last year, more than 22,000 human trafficking victims and survivors were identified in the U.S. alone, according to the Polaris Project.
As the eyes and ears of the road, truckers have a unique opportunity to report suspicious activity. Human traffickers know that they’re operating under a careful watch, so it may not be as easy to identify those soliciting prostitution as it once was. We highly recommend checking out TAT and learning about tips to identify and report this activity.
Staying Safe During COVID-19
When do you think the last time the handle of a diesel pump has been sanitized? How many people do you think touch it a day? It’s always a good idea to carry some hand sanitizer with you and use it after you’ve touched multiple surfaces, and refrain from touching your face or eating without washing first.
If there’s ever been a time to consider your own personal hygiene, it’s now. As COVID-19 continues to be a threat, limiting your chances of exposure is important. Even if you don’t personally think you’re at risk of developing serious illness, don’t take the chances.
Assume everything you touch at a truck stop has been exposed to COVID-19 because you have no idea who might be carrying the virus. Always remember to keep a mask with you and maintain a six-foot distance from others whenever possible. Most states are requiring masks in public areas, but even if a state doesn’t, protect yourself and others.
The time you spend at a truck stop is also a great opportunity to quickly sanitize your cab. By using sanitizing wipes, you can quickly disinfect areas that are frequently touched, such as your steering wheel, door handles, infotainment system, etc. For more tips to maintain good physical and mental health, check out another recent blog from when COVID-19 first began to spread.
Parking Around the ‘Stop’
In a place you’d think would be exempt from a truck accident, truck stops actually see quite a few. It just goes to show that you can’t let your guard down even when you think you’ve called it a day after exiting the highway. Many of the accidents that do happen are simply due to lack of awareness, or how and where a driver is parked. The Interstate Motor Carriers Capacity Agency offers some great tips on how to reduce your chances of experiencing an accident — it’s worth checking out.
As truck parking availability continues to be a growing problem in the industry, we know it can be frustrating. To alleviate some of the ‘unknown’ drivers are faced with when deciding where to pull in at the end of their hours of service, Drivewyze has added Rest Area Notifications to its Drivewyze Safety Notifications platform. The notifications, which are available to drivers and fleets subscribed to Drivewyze PreClear, receive alerts on upcoming available parking spots at truck stops and rest areas in Indiana and Iowa. We hope it’s a service you find to be useful. For more information about Drivewyze Safety Notifications, check out this link.
Truck stops are meant to be a safe place for all truckers – look out for one another. Let’s continue to practice safe and healthy habits and keep an eye out for suspicious activity.