Throughout my trucking driving career, I’ve seen some wild things and encountered some dangerous situations.
There’s real danger to driving a rig. If you’re a seasoned trucker, then you probably have your own stories to tell.
But if you’re someone looking to get into the industry then maybe these stories will help give you some perspective and foresight about truck driving dangers.
Is Truck Driving Dangerous?
The career of a professional driver can be a very dangerous career and that’s part of the reason why truck drivers deserve better pay because they’re constantly in situations that could be very dangerous.
I can recall over the course of the years that I drove a number of times when I thought, “What have I gotten myself into here?”
Most of these situations revolve around not being familiar with my route, the delivery location or simply being in a dangerous area.
Here are a few of those stories and some words of advice in case you find yourself in a similar situation.
10 Dangerous Truck Deliveries Stories
CandleStick Park: Choose Your Fights Carefully
I remember accepting a load in the San Francisco area around Candlestick Park.
After calling ahead from Reno to get exact directions into the loading dock. I was running ahead of schedule so I decided it might be good to catch up on some sleep at the dock.
I got a hold of the receiver and I asked, “You know, do you have a good facility down there? Is it okay if I come in tonight and sleep down there backed in against the dock?”
And his response was, “Oh no, oh no, don’t come in here after dark.”
I thought that was odd, but it tells me something.
So, fair enough. I stayed up in Sacramento for the evening and the next day I strolled into what was known as Candlestick Park.
I was backed into the dock and it was a dead end street. Just at the other end of the dead end street, a couple hundred feet from where I was backed in, there were these young teenage boys standing up on a dirt hill throwing rocks at my truck as I was being unloaded.
At the time, my truck was a week old. It was its first trip and I was pretty touchy about it. I didn’t want dents in it. I never want dents in any of my trucks. These kids were picking up rocks trying to hit my brand new Peterbilt.
So, I decided to have a talk with these kids to get them to stop. When the owner of the warehouse where I was unloading saw me starting up the hill after these kids, he grabbed me.
He said, “No, no, don’t go up there. The fathers of those kids have Uzis and that’s the projects up there. That’s a housing project up on that hill.”
I took his advice and decided to stay and shield my truck as best I could. Luckily for me, the kids didn’t have a throwing arm good enough to hit my truck.
I finished unloading. I was heading out of there empty and headed down to Salinas to load but I had to drive past this Candlestick Park housing project and it became clear that all these kids knew that I would have to take this road to get out to the highway.
When I got out to this road they were all standing along the side of the road with rocks waiting for me to come by. I was lucky. I accelerated hard, swung to the other lane which was empty and they missed the truck completely. But I remember thinking, you know, if that guy at the warehouse hadn’t warned me, I’d have gone up that hill out to those kids. I would have maybe met some angry father with a gun.
Overall, everything turned out as well as it did. I didn’t end up with any dents in my truck and I didn’t end up being confronted by an angry father with a gun.
- Tip — Truck driving is already a very dangerous job without adding the hazardous interactions we have with locals and those on the road. So, choose your fights carefully.
New Jersey Docks: Communication
I remember another time I accepted a load of orange juice out of Florida going into the docks in New Jersey.
I got up into New Jersey and it turned out that where I was taking the orange juice was a Coca-Cola plant. The Longshoreman up there in Jersey were on strike and they were picketing the Coca-Cola plant that I had to go into. The load broker had failed to mention that detail to me.
I got in the gate in fairly good order because it was before 7:00 AM. They let me in right away but by the time I was empty and getting out of there, it was after 8:00. By this time, the picket line had fully assembled. And I thought, “Oh boy.”
I eased my way out through the electronic gate and then the police were there. I squeezed through the picket line but I noticed that a group of six guys got in a car and proceeded to follow me.
When I left, I was so scared I don’t think I stopped for the next 300 or 400 miles just to make sure they’d given up and turned around. I sure didn’t want to be confronted by these guys with ax handles in a truck stop parking lot around midnight.
When I finally stopped I remember thinking that I would have never accepted that load if I had known the Longshoreman were picketing that place. That was a dangerous truck delivery that I would have preferred to pass on.
- If you notice that you have someone following you and you can’t seem to shake them, don’t hesitate to call your dispatch or the police. Let someone know that you feel threatened and where you are located.
South Carolina: Don’t Be a Target
Another time I was down in South Carolina and I was delivering a COD load. I thought the standard procedure for something like that is that they gave you a bank draft or a certified check.
Instead, they took me to the end of the textile warehouse where the cash office was. It was right in the middle of the plant. They then proceeded to count of $2,200 cash in my hand to pay for the COD load with a hundred or so of these factory workers looking on. I remember thinking, ”Oh man, I didn’t want to be traveling with that much cash.”
It was an uncomfortable feeling. Once again I didn’t stop for hundreds of miles after I got out of the plant. I skipped dinner and everything because I thought I wanted to be well out of that area before I stopped in case someone decided to follow me out and retrieved that cash from me.
- Don’t make yourself a target. If you’re hauling something valuable or you get paid in cash then make sure you stay aware of your surroundings. If possible, request payment in a private room or see if there are recommended safety measures for your haul.
Related > 5 Reasons LTL Deliveries Stink!
Chicago: Know Your Route
I accepted a load one time into the Loop in Chicago, downtown Chicago. They refer to that area as “the loop”, right in the downtown core area up against the lake.
It was a good paying load and I needed to get into that area. I took the load and arrived at my destination: Caprini Green.
It was difficult getting into the area, due to overpasses which were too low for me to drive under.
I wiggled my way in and finally found the loading dock that I had to go to. It was an early 1900-0 loading dock and I could hardly put my trailer in there for the size of it. I stuck halfway out onto the street. It was a terrible spot to get into with traffic constantly whipping by.
Even after dropping off the load, I had trouble finding my way back out of that area because of these overpasses. I remember running back and forth every few blocks to see if I could find an overpass that was tall enough for me to get under to get back out to 94. That was a harrowing experience. It was starting to get dark and it was not a nice neighbourhood.
I certainly understood after an experience like why a lot of the American guys carry guns. Frankly, I sure wish I’d had a gun a couple of those times. But was a scary deal in my trucking career.
- Know your route! It isn’t a bad idea to check a map or GPS before going into an area to plan your entry and exit strategy. This is especially important if you have a route planned that winds up being shut down for traffic or an accident. Have alternate routes available particularly for metropolitan areas.
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JFK Airport: Watch Your Load
I hauled air freight for a little while and I delivered into JFK airport fairly regularly.
JFK airport is a large complex but there’s not a whole lot to eat in the airport. One of the dock workers had told me about this little diner on the outskirts of the airport proper.
I dropped my trailer at one of the airline docks and bobtailed over there for lunch. While I was in having lunch I watched some hoods hijack a guy and take his truck right out of the diner parking lot.
I could see it from the front window of the diner where I was sitting. They held the guy at gunpoint and took his truck. I remember thinking, “Here’s a neighborhood I won’t be back to.”
At another time, at JFK, I arrived with my load at an airline’s dock to unload and they told me that their facility on airport proper was maxed out for capacity. They said they rented warehouse space off the airport and gave me directions to it.
It was a few miles away and I wasn’t particularly happy because no one had told me of that. Of course, I was doing those extra few miles in that extra hour or so for free.
I went down off airport proper and found this little warehouse and banged on the door. A partition slid open and a guy with a gun peered out at me and asked me what I wanted.
I told him I was there with the airline’s airfreight. He says he needs to check me out and look at the truck to make sure I was really a truck driver. He carried the gun and kept it on me the whole time in case it was some sort of a scam.
Then he backed me in and said he’d unload the trailer. But he advised me to stay out by my rig and keep an eye on my truck. That’s exactly what I did.
I could see why because the locals were starting to take an interest in it. He wasn’t long unloading me but I was glad to get out of there.
- Watch your load! Your load isn’t worth losing your life over but you may be able to deter thieves if you stay close by. If you’re doing a dangerous truck delivery in a suspicious area then keep an eye on your rig.
Ford Street: Dangerous Routes
In my travels, I often come out of Canada and into the states. I almost always cross the Ambassador Bridge and sometimes when they do construction on the ramps (on the I-75 and I-94 coming off the bridge). They would divert traffic from the Ambassador Bridge and you couldn’t get directly onto the highway. You’d have to go down Ford street.
In the late seventies and early eighties, Ford Street was nothing more than a glorified slum in most places. I remember traveling down Ford Street after clearing customs a couple of times at one or two in the morning and thinking “Boy, Ford Street is the wrong place to be.”
I sure didn’t enjoy those crossings, so I started crossing in Sarnia after that because Ford Street was downright dangerous at night back then.
- Word of Advice: If you can, choose an alternate route. Even just driving through a dangerous area and not stopping at all can still put you in harm’s way.
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Little America Truck Stop, Wyoming: Mistaken Identity
I had a friend of mine running across I-80 and as you know most I-80 is pretty good. He pulled into little America for the night and found a quiet spot in the back. He got out of his truck and two guys jumped him with tire irons.
Now, Neil was a big guy, like 6ft 5″, 260-270. We called him Smooth. These guys jumped him with the tire iron and got Neil to the ground and then took off.
Here’s the kicker. Neil could never understand why they had jumped him.
They never tried to take his wallet or anything, but he remembered there had been some Rambo trash talk on the CB coming through Wyoming. The best he could figure was that these guys had mistaken him for the CB Rambo and decided to jump them because they took offence at what they thought he had said.
Neil was a quiet guy. He hadn’t done any talking at all but that was all he could figure. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. And it was a case of mistaken identity. But two guys and a tire iron; they hurt him. Thank God Neil was such a big guy or they might have done more damage or possibly killed him.
- Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to avoid a dangerous truck delivery. In Neil’s case, he literally did nothing to these guys and they still targeted him for whatever reason. The best your can do is just keep your wits about you and let someone know where you are choosing to rest.
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New York City: Deadly Intent
Back in the early eighties, I was pulling a lot of hanging beef. I loaded up in Alberta going down into New York City. It paid surprisingly well. I was leery about going to New York City since I’d never been before.
It was my first time in N.Y.C. but I had directions to the cold storage place and it seemed fairly straightforward. I checked it on the maps and it looked all right. Besides, the money was too good to turn down for me.
I took this load of swinging beef and headed into N.Y.C. to the cold storage place. Most cold storage places wanted you in there at the crack of dawn. So I was there about five in the morning. It got me out of the city traffic anyway.
I backed in with the doors closed, unit running, against the dock and took a rest. Around six or seven in the morning a guy came out and woke me up. The guy had a white coat on like the typical meat plants uniform. He told me to pull ahead, open my doors, and back it in again.
After I did as he asked, he said, “Man, you’re out of Alberta? I didn’t think we’d see you guys back after that last load.”
I said, “What do you mean? What happened with the last load?”
He said, “Well, one of your guys came down, somebody banged on his door and he was backed in the same way as you did. Somebody in a white coat banged on his door before we got in. He must have thought that these guys worked here. He pulled ahead and got out of the truck to open his doors and they killed him and took the load.”
It made me realize. I never checked the guy’s ID when I pulled ahead and got out of the truck. I certainly hadn’t heard this story about the guy before me being killed. Nobody bothered to mention that part to me. Maybe that’s why the load paid so well. I remember thinking that could have been me. I just looked at the guy’s white coat and clipboard and assumed he worked there. That’s how easy it can happen.”
- Know who you’re supposed to talk to. Check IDs. Don’t trust your load or your life to a stranger.
High Desert Truck Stop, Barstow, CA: Wrong Place, Wrong Time
I had one friend that was coming into Barstow one night and everybody knew that you had to clean and wash your truck before you went into LA. So, he decided he was going to take the time, get his truck washed, get his ducks in a row and have a big sleep before heading into LA in the morning.
He stopped at this one truck-stop outside of Barstow. He stopped to wash the truck when all of a sudden he could hear helicopters in the air. The LA SWAT raided the truck stop with helicopters. They were coming down on ropes with machine guns out.
It turned out that somebody in the truck-stop had been selling drugs. The LA Force decided that this was the night they were going to bust the place. They surrounded the truck stop, held everybody, and checked all the trucks and IDs. It was hours before they got to my friend.
Once they found out he wasn’t part of the group, they let him go. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes that’s all it takes to get yourself hurt or killed. Truck drivers are always in different places all the time that they’re not familiar with. That’s just one of the most dangerous parts of truck deliveries.
- It’s pretty easy for a truck driver to accidentally end up in the middle of something or someplace where he has no business being. That’s why now I suggest to everyone that they have an intimate knowledge of where ever it is they’re being sent by the dispatcher just to make sure they don’t end up in harm’s way.
Detroit, MI: Murder in ThyssenKrupp
Most truck drivers have heard of the deadly truck delivery that occurred out of Indiana a few years ago.
Michael Boeglin arrived early to his appointment with a ThyssenKrupp delivery. parked outside ThyssenKrupp wouldn’t let him in the gates so he decided to wait outside the gates.
I don’t know if he knew the kind of area he was going into or not, but that area of Detroit is known for being extremely dangerous. Boeglin requested to come in early but the company policy said they wouldn’t allow trucks on the lot before their appointment time. Evidently, they have no problem at all risking a driver’s life and letting them sit in a neighbourhood like that poor fellow.
At only 31 years old, Boeglin was murdered inside of his truck. The police arrived at the scene to find Boeglin shot and his truck burned with him inside. It was a terrible and avoidable tragedy.
- If you’re late or early for an appointment and they won’t let you stay on the lot then find a truck stop or someplace safe to stay for the night. Protect yourself.
Dangerous Trucking is a Part of the Job
Trucking can be a dangerous occupation. It’s got to be you that takes care of yourself and you’ve got to do it hopefully before you get into these situations rather than find yourself in the middle of these situations and then have to try to survive it.
It’s better if you can be proactive and refused loads into these places or call ahead and find out what the deal is. Find out beforehand if they’re going to let you on the property and if it’s fenced, if they’ve got security or how it’s going to work.
We tell it like it is. Not every route you take is going to be easy. Not every delivery will be safe.
Often in the trucking industry, drivers face difficult decisions and life-threatening consequences if they make the wrong choice. Often in the trucking industry, drivers face difficult decisions and life-threatening consequences if they make the wrong choice.
Remember, no load is worth your life. Watch where you’re going. Take steps to protect yourself. Be thinking ahead always. Bottom line is, be careful out there.