Protests over police violence, caused by the tragic case of death of George Floyd, have been largely peaceful in most cities where they have taken place. However, some protests have taken place on highways, and are scheduled to take place on highways in the future, so they may cause a significant difficulty for drivers to continue their planned routes.
Driving toward protestors can impose a serious risk both to the protestors and drivers, and the best advice offered to carriers and drivers is to do everything possible to avoid areas of civil unrest and find alternate routes if possible.
That’s why the American Trucking Associations, ATA Safety Management Council (SMC) and the ATA Transportation Security Council (TSC) released a list of recommendations in the wake of the Vechirko incident that includes tips on avoiding unsafe situations, as well as advice on what drivers should do if they do find themselves amid a protest.
All carriers and drivers need to review all these recommendations and act accordingly if they find themselves in the protest situation which cannot be avoided, thus ensuring their and everyone else’s safety.
Recommendations for Professional Drivers Entering Areas of Social Unrest
- Immediately report any emergency situation to local law enforcement by calling 911.
- Avoid areas of unrest. Exercise caution when in the vicinity of any large gatherings,
protests, or demonstrations.
- Plan for road closures. If your route brings you through an area that has seen protests,
check the local news, with your dispatcher, or the safety department to make sure
interstates and roads along the route are open and the area you are delivering to is safe.
- Contact the delivery location for current and timely situations and conditions. Traffic
conditions are constantly changing.
- Remain in regular communication with your dispatcher to provide travel updates.
- Plan ahead, try to make deliveries in areas of unrest during the day, at night park in well lit, safe areas.
- Assess every situation prior to exiting the cab of your truck. If danger or exposure to
large gatherings in the form of protest exist, abort delivery operations.
- Conduct thorough pre-trip inspections before departing domiciled locations; eliminate
maintenance breakdowns from the equation.
- Always keep doors locked and windows closed. Remove keys from unattended vehicles
and ensure trailer locking and latching mechanisms are functioning properly.
- If you encounter a gathering, stop your vehicle and do not drive through. Avoid any
interaction and do not provoke the group.
- If available, utilize your in-cab camera in an unsafe situation to document your
- Maintain continuous contact with your dispatcher and safety department for specific
operating procedures and follow company policy.
Practical Tips in Case You Can’t Avoid Areas of Social Unrest
The Iowa Motor Truck Association also sent a letter to members following the Vechirko incident. “Do whatever necessary to change directions and get out of the area,” 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.”
If avoidance isn’t possible, however, IMTA offered several practical on-spot tips that carriers can share with drivers to keep themselves safe:
- Keep your doors locked and take your seat belt off if you think you might be attacked. If your doors don’t automatically lock, get in the habit of doing it manually – especially the passenger side door. If you encounter a situation where you could be under attack, remove your seat belt before being attacked so you can exit the truck more quickly if you have to. “It’s [better] to take your chances on foot than be trapped inside,” IMTA said.
- If you have time, crack your windows and turn off the ventilation system. Windows that are down approximately a half-inch are harder to break than a window that is tightly closed, IMTA said. Turn off your ventilation system to prevent smoke or teargas in the air from getting into your cab.
- Beware of other forms of roadblocks. IMTA said protesters and rioters can make their own makeshift roadblocks with stolen cars parked to block a roadway, causing other drivers to stop.
- Keep your dashcam on. Information recorded on your dashcam could help law enforcement if anything goes wrong. It can also help you for insurance purposes.
- Call ahead to customers. A quick phone call to a customer in an area suspected of having protests can help in knowing what to do and where to go.
- If hauling hazmat, call 911 immediately. Be prepared to identify your location and to tell first responders what you are transporting. This can help law enforcement protect you and everyone in the vicinity of the hazardous materials.
We hope that you stay informed and avoid and safety and security risks altogether, however, if necessary, we hope that you find these recommendations helpful. Remember to communicate with your dispatcher regularly, because preventive measures are the most effective ones.