In the past month, two items have come up that I feel need to be addressed with regards to team driving in entry level carriers. A LinkedIn discussion thread that was posted about a recent article called hiring felons that appeared in Fleet Owner Magazine and a 60 minutes broadcast titled “Untreated mental illness an imminent danger?” that aired a few weeks back.
I have written many times about the personal safety issues in entry level carriers that insist on having ill-informed trucking students complete “team driving”as part of their training. The trucking recruiter “joke books” as one female driver remarked are nothing more than misleading ads to lure drivers using “bait and switch” tactics without accountability.
Team Driving situations are dangerous for the public and the occupants of the truck. Especially at training carriers that operate without an ethical compass.
The article on the LinkedIn thread was in regards to the hiring of felons. While I feel strongly that people deserve a second chance in life I also feel that when hiring people who will be unsupervised, carriers are responsible for who they let loose on the public and co-workers. Some past issues should be be monitored.
The article that originated from a trucking publication provided a very weak example of accountability by giving a “for instance” scenario of not putting a person who had formerly served jail time for embezzlement in a finance position. As this article appeared in a trucking trade publication, an industry with a turnover rate of 100% for driver jobs it only makes sense to me to use this accountability example:
Do not put people who are a danger to others in a team driving situation or allow them to become trainers! That would include violent offenders, rapists, and those who have psychiatric problems that may cause them to lash out at others or become violent.
Team driving operations are difficult for two individuals that are not predisposed to violence.
Since I entered the trucking industry I have encountered a number of individuals that exhibit extreme behavior issues that are visibly not conducive to a team driving environment. This is especially true in training carriers. While some of these folks may adjust well to trucking as a solo driver it is completely irresponsible to match such a person to another unsuspecting driver who is trying to get through their first crucial years in the industry.
Two weeks ago I received a detailed account from a Woman who experienced a violent attack from a co-driver that she was matched with to drive. Since the traumatic event that occurred last year, she has been told she is not hirable unless she takes an expensive refresher course.
While this woman had no problems during her training period she was still new to the industry. She was lured into the “team-driving” myth of making more money that many newbie CDL drivers fall for. In a training carrier, the few extra dollars you might make should be weighed against the value of your life and personal safety.
A single woman who has very little experience in the industry must know that team driving is incredibly unsafe. This is an industry with substandard ethics and most often the female who experiences any sort of abuse will be treated as “THE PROBLEM” while the offender rides off to hurt someone else. Her story is long but worth the read so we can better understand that there are many factors to consider when getting on a truck with a stranger and getting little to no support from your carrier when an incident occurs.
A number of carriers do not hold themselves accountable for who they hire and neither does the industry hold those offensive carriers accountable from their low ethical standards.
“After truck driver training school, I began OTR trucking as a solo driver. On one occasion when I went to the company terminal for repairs on my truck, an owner operator was sitting in the driver’s lounge area and struck up a conversation with me. He was telling me that he was looking for some people to team drive for him. He said you could make more money team driving. I told him that I might be interested in trying team drive as long as the person was nice, decent and respectful. He told me that I would need a few months of solo driving to make sure I knew how to drive, use the Qualcomm.
About 2 to 3 months after our conversation, I heard from him and he asked if I could begin team driving for him. I told him “yes”, I thought I could try it and see if it was better than solo driving. I wanted to see if I could earn more in my weekly paycheck because I was earning very little most weeks and the truck kept breaking down. I met up with the owner-operator who had his truck leased on at a major carrier and he told me that he had a truck ready and a team partner that I was to team up with.
The team driving partner I was matched up with was a male. We talked a bit and I told him I suppose we could team drive but he must be respectful and don’t try nothing out of place. (No disrespect, no negativity, no name calling, no sex, etc. etc.). I was put in the truck to team drive with this guy, and everything was OK for about 11 days. He seemed like an decent person, except he did tend to talk loudly when he was driving. I didn’t know if that was just how he talked, or if he was talking on a Bluetooth headset while driving, or if he was trying to talk over the noise of the truck. I never said anything about it as after I would get my driving hours in, I was tired and I’d hop in my bunk, close the curtains and fall asleep.
After 11 days of team driving, we were leaving one of the company terminals with a load. I was logged onto the Qualcomm for my drive time as it was my turn to drive. I left the terminal with the load and headed out, getting on the Interstate. This night was a late Friday night and there was a lot of traffic on the highway, people in their vehicles were zipping and zooming between the lanes of traffic, some of them were driving really crazy. I was busy driving and checking the mirrors, truck, traffic, lanes, etc. Usually after this team guy drove, he would hop in his bunk and close the curtains, but this night he sat in the passenger seat. I didn’t think anything of it, because I was busy driving and watching traffic. It was very busy and I didn’t want any accident. There was so much traffic coming on at the entrance ramps I decided it would be best and safer to get in the middle lane and stay there until the traffic died down, so when it was safe to do so, I signaled and moved into the middle lane. While I was driving and watching traffic, this guy began talking loudly, but again I wasn’t paying attention to him because I was driving and watching the vehicles on the road.
I assumed his talking was to someone on his Bluetooth but he became so loud that I asked him politely, not being rude or nasty or anything, “Are you talking to me or to someone on your Bluetooth?” When I said that, he then got quiet. After a while he did the same thing, he began talking loudly again. I asked him again, “Are you talking to me or to someone on your Bluetooth? This time I said, “If you’re talking to me, I’ll have to find a safe place to pull over at a truck stop or rest area or something, because I don’t want any accident to happen.” A third time he became very quiet for a moment but then he began talking fast and loud. I could not understand what he was saying except that when he finished he said “BITCH!” I then said to him “Are you ok? what’s up? what’s wrong?” I still could not understand who he was talking to if anyone.
I glanced over at him and he was sitting in the passenger seat staring straight ahead with a dead, looking straight ahead stare on his face, and rocking back and forth in the seat. This creeped me out and I asked him again “Are you ok, what’s going on?” He responded and said “I want you out of the truck; I want you out of my truck bitch!” I was still driving when he was saying this and I was thinking ok, something’s wrong with this guy and I need to do something. He was in the passenger seat of the truck sitting there rocking back and forth, talking louder and faster and then started yelling at me saying he wanted me out of the truck and he wanted me out of his truck, and at the end of his loud talking he kept saying “BITCH!”
I hadn’t done anything to this guy – as I said it was my drive time and I logged in and did everything I was supposed to do and I began driving the load to the destination I didn’t know what was going on with this guy. I did fear for my safety and didn’t know if he was going to do anything or what. I wanted to get in touch with the owner operator and the company ASAP and tell them something is going on with this team driver, the guy is talking and acting REAL weird, and creepy and I want to get out of this truck because of his behavior. I was still driving and this guy was still going off in his head or whatever was going on with him. I didn’t know if what this guy was going to say or what, so when it was safe, I signaled and pulled over. By this time I was very nervous and scared. In the meantime while I was driving and trying to find a safe place to park the guy called the company and got through to someone there. When he was talking I could hear him speaking more plainly and was telling whomever that he wanted me out of the truck. I heard the person on the other end ask him why, and he just repeated he wanted me out of the truck. The person told him that he could not put me out of the truck, that it was not his truck, and over safety reasons.
I sat there in the driver’s seat for a quick few seconds trying to figure out what to do and who to call. In the meantime this guy stopped talking to whomever at the company; it looked like he had hung up on the person he was talking to. I went to reach for my phone in the cup holder so I could call the owner operator or someone at the company and let them know this guy is acting really strange, crazy and creepy and I need to get away from this situation. When I went to get my phone out of the cup holder this guy punched me on the right side of my face. My face started hurting and my lip started bleeding. I automatically jumped up to try and get away or to defend myself, and at the same time I’m thinking to myself – What’s up with this guy? He’s gone off in his head or something, I don’t know why and I haven’t done anything to him!
After he punched me, he stood up, stepped on my phone, then he looked at me and the guys’ eyes looked plain crazy, like he was gone. He started yelling at me saying repeatedly over and over again (Honest to God this is no joke – I would not joke or lie about this situation and what this team driver said and did to me but the guy kept repeating these same words over and over and he looked like he was insane.) “Get out of the truck bitch, get out of my truck bitch, I’m gonna kill you bitch! Get out of the truck bitch, get out of my truck bitch, I’m gonna kill you bitch, get out of the truck bitch, get out of my truck bitch, I’m gonna kill you bitch!” While he was saying this he grabbed me around my throat and started choking/strangling me. I tried to get his hands from around my throat and couldn’t. I was terrified because this guy was trying to kill me and I couldn’t get him to stop. I couldn’t yell, scream, get his hands from around my throat, or use my phone or anything. I blacked out and before blacking out I remember seeing him move his thumbs and putting them on the middle of my windpipe. I thought, this is it, this guy is going to kill me and he’s pressing on my windpipe, and I don’t know why this is happening.
When I came to I was pushed against the driver’s seat by this guy. He had me pinned against the driver’s seat, and he had opened the driver’s side door. I tried to yell and I couldn’t – no sound would come out and my neck and throat were sore from him putting his hands around my throat and neck and choking/ trying to strangle me. He was still repeating those same words over and over again nonstop, get out of the truck bitch, get out of my truck bitch, I’m gonna kill you bitch and he kept looking out of the door of the truck. I could hear the traffic going past, and apparently he was trying to time throwing me out into oncoming traffic. He grabbed me and tried to push me out. The first two times, I prayed and held onto WHATEVER I COULD HANG ONTO in that truck. The second time when he couldn’t push me out, he then held me down against the driver’s seat and I reached the keys, grabbed them and tossed them outside on the ground. I figured if this guy has gone crazy or whatever is happening with him and he kills me or tries to kill me, hopefully he won’t find the keys to drive away or to drive over me/my body. The third time he pushed me, I fell out of the driver’s side door of the truck. I tried to grab whatever I could but I landed on the ground on my knees, and I just pulled myself away from the truck as fast as I could. The guy closed the truck door and he was still talking his crazy words. I tried to get up hoping I had no broken bones and this guy wouldn’t get out of the truck and attack me. I got up slowly, and started walking, away from the truck because I need to try and find help and law enforcement.
I was hurting but walked down the road a ways until I saw a trucker who was parked on the ramp. The lights were on in his truck so I knocked on his door and he rolled his window down and asked me what happened. My neck/throat was hurting a lot, my lip and mouth were bloody, my legs and knees were scraped and hurting and it was hard to talk but I slowly told him what had happened. I told him I was a truck driver who was attacked/assaulted by the team driver, what had just happened a little while before, and I told him I didn’t have my phone, my wallet – nothing and could he please call the Sheriff, Police, Ambulance, and the truck company to notify them as to what had happened to me. He was nice enough and did call all of these places, however when he tried to get through to the company he was told they were having computer problems or some sort of tech problems so he nor I couldn’t talk to anyone at that time.
I waited outside of this man’s truck and eventually the Police, Sheriff, Ambulance, etc. showed up. I was checked out in the Ambulance, and someone took pictures of my injuries while in the Ambulance. Law enforcement asked me what happened and it took me a while to tell them because I could hardly talk, but I told them what happened. Someone inside the Ambulance did say “Wow, who did this to you, …? ” I told them what happened and a report was taken.
While I was being checked out in the Ambulance, through the back window I saw the truck pulling up. I told one of the officers who was there, “That’s the truck I was driving!” The law enforcement officers said they were going to talk to him and they also asked if I was a truck driver. I told them yes. They asked me if I had been driving before the assault/attack and I told them “Yes, you can check the Qualcomm and you should see me logged in on my driving time.” They asked if I had a valid CDL license to drive and I told them yes, but I don’t have it on me, it’s still in the truck, I had no time to grab anything. They left the ambulance and went to the truck. I don’t know what was said but when the law enforcement people came back to the ambulance, they gave me my phone, my wallet and asked to see my CDL license which I showed it to them, but they had a noticeably changed attitude towards me.
I can say that I definitely did notice a marked change of attitude in how they talked to me and treated me and a couple of officers kind of smirked at me as if they were going to laugh and I thought, “Something is not right .Is this going to become a “try to blame the female thing?” They asked me again several more times if I had been driving and I told them again yes, it was my turn to drive and I was logged in on the Qualcomm. I asked if anyone had checked the Qualcomm to make sure I was still logged in as the legal driver. No one said anything about that. I left out from the company terminal with a load to deliver and I was the driver at the time. They asked me again if my CDL license was valid or something to that effect and I showed them again that it was legal and valid. I asked them if anything was going to be done to the guy and could I press charges or was he going to be arrested? The officer told me no – he was given a citation to mail in or to show up in court to plead guilty or not guilty. I was baffled and told them – this guy tried to kill me just a short while ago and he can’t be arrested and I can’t press charges or anything? I thought something could or would be done about him trying to kill me and him punching me, attacking me, choking/strangling me. The ambulance people then asked if I wanted to go to a hospital to get checked out and I told them yes, so they took me to a hospital where I was seen and checked and pictures were taken of the injuries this guy did to me. The Doctor and Nurse were asking me questions and they also wrote a hospital report.
While I was there, I plugged my phone in to see if it would work and by chance it did work for a little while. I contacted my Daughter and told her what had happened. The phone then started messing up from that guy stepping on it. My Daughter contacted the local police where we lived and went and filed a missing persons report. After I was seen at the hospital, I was stranded and had no way to go anywhere. I contacted the truck company and told them what happened and I needed a ride. I had been told I had to figure that out myself. I called taxi companies, bus companies and everyone told me because the town I was in was around 40 miles or more from the nearest place, no one would come to get me. I called the truck company back and told them I need a ride, can you do something? All of my things are in the truck; I’m stranded at this hospital. After several hours they finally sent someone to pick me up and bring me back to the same terminal I had left from the night before. They picked me up in a van and when we got to the terminal, this creep team driver who attacked me was standing outside the front door of the terminal and when he saw me, he looked like he was about to “crap” his pants and he made a beeline inside the building. I told the people in the building that’s the guy who attacked/assaulted me, so they separated us and had me sitting in the office area where the driver managers worked.
I finally talked with someone at the company terminal and was eventually told that I had to get my things out of the truck and bring them in the building or I could put them in a small storage building which I did wind up having to do. When I asked why I had to get my things out of the truck, I was told the owner of the truck wanted me to get my things out. I told the people there in the building that I did not assault or start anything with this team driver, and if I had to get my things out of the truck, could they have someone come out there with me. I was sent out with an employee at the terminal but once we got to the truck I was told by him that he had to go back in the building, but they would tell the other driver to stay away from the truck.
A short while I was packing my things in the truck I stopped for a minute to organize a few things and looked out the front window and guess who is standing right next to the truck looking at me in a threatening way – the creepy crazy acting team driver who attacked me. At this point I got scared again, because this was some strange stuff going on. I guess he was trying to intimidate me hoping I wouldn’t tell anyone what he did to me. I closed the curtain on one side and took my phone out to try and call someone in the terminal building and ask them to please come out ASAP. My phone wouldn’t work. I thought about getting out on the opposite side of the truck but was afraid because I didn’t know if this guy was still out there around the truck, so I kept packing my stuff and just prayed. I stayed in the truck for a long while and pulled the curtain back to see if the guy was gone and finally he was, so I eventually got out of the truck and took some of my stuff to the terminal. I had to have someone come back with me to help me get the rest of my things because I had clothes, books, movies, etc. One thing I noticed while I was getting my things was some of my items were missing from their spots and closet areas. I decided to look among this guy’s stuff and I’m glad I did because there were some of my things that were missing so this guy had been stealing some of my things! It wasn’t really noticeable until I began packing my stuff that I saw some of my things were missing. Most of it was small things like stamps, envelopes, hair barrettes, small bottles of shampoo.
At this point, I wondered how did the guy get back to the terminal when I was logged into the Qualcomm as the driver on duty and why was he allowed to just go on and walk away from what he had done several hours before, allowed to get a load and drive the truck? I also had to talk with the owner of the truck, and he tried to place the blame on me for what was done to me. I told the owner I was driving, how the guy started talking loud and what he did to me and the owner asked me to repeat it to him which I did. I’m guessing he didn’t know what to say, so he told me “You must have done something to him.” I hadn’t done anything to this guy, and I didn’t know if the guy had mental issues or what, but he just went off with the crazy talk and his crazy actions in attacking/assaulting me. At this point I was feeling mad and depressed at what had happened and how I was being treated as if I had done something to this guy.
A few people working at the terminal started talking and joking about it “look at the red rings around her neck – wonder what happened – I heard so and so, etc. Some were laughing about it, a couple of people who worked there told me to forget about it and move on, that not much would be done about it or they would try to blame the woman, and some told me I needed to get legal help. I was told these things from drivers and other employees there at the terminal.
After this I was put up in a local hotel for a couple of days and then I wound up living at and in the lounge area of the terminal for two weeks. The people at the company asked if I wanted to go home and I told them no – I need a job, so they said they would put me back as a solo driver but I had to wait until a truck became available. The only way I was making it was because I had had a cooler with food and drinks, a blanket, clothes, personal items. When I got paid I used that to buy more food, drinks and to eventually get a phone to be able to contact my Daughter again. I think maybe they thought I was going to give up and go home, but honest to God I needed a job and I wanted to get the training and experience in so I would have a skill under my belt.
After living at the terminal for two weeks, they finally got me a truck and a load of freight out of there but they sent me to another terminal rather than the delivery point in order to have a new Qualcomm installed in the truck. Once I was at the next terminal who was there? The former team driver guy who assaulted me! We passed each other as I was headed out the door to go to my truck, he looked at me and he turned and pressed himself against the wall like he was trying to hide. I went to call my Daughter to tell her that he was there and some Women in the bathroom overheard my conversation and told me to wait so they walked out with me and one of them was a student and she had me talk with her trainer. I then went with her trainer to talk to someone higher up at the terminal, and what I was told by him was they got the guy out of the terminal location and they were going to put me up at a local hotel overnight until the Qualcomm was installed.
Altogether I wound up running into this guy at three different terminals after he assaulted me. On one occasion while waiting in a driver’s lounge for my truck to be repaired he kept smirking at me. I felt like he was figuring he got away with his attack on me. Shortly after that I gave notice because I figured as long as I’m working at this company, I’m going to run into this creep and apparently the company was doing nothing to him, also I had gotten over 1 year in and wanted to go elsewhere, since people at the company started treating me negatively. So I guess it turned into the “Let’s look the other way” scenario and “Let’s treat the victim like it was her fault.”
I had also been seen by a counselor after this happened because it was really bothering me – I couldn’t sleep well, I was lashing out at my Family, crying about it – it really messed with me what this guy did to me, and when I think about it now it messes with me. I do have papers, reports, and pictures as to what he did and said to me.
From what I’ve heard on your videos, you have been through some things too, as well as countless other Women truckers.
It’s a shame that a lot of Women in this job field get treated like crap or some might try to blame them for something that was done TO them when they have done nothing to anyone, but have the guts and courage to tell what happened and stand up for themselves and other Women truckers.
Desiree, I hope to hear from you soon and again A BIG THANKS to you for listening and reading about what happened to me!
P.S. Earlier this year after I gave notice and left this truck company to look for a driving job elsewhere, I had to contact the company again about wrong information that was on my DAC Report. The month on the DAC report was the same month this assault/attack happened, and I was also told by the company worker that I had driven for the company for 5 months and I had been fired. I didn’t even know that I had been fired and how was I fired. No one at the truck company notified me, I was put into a different truck and drove solo for the company for several months after this driver assaulted me, until earlier this year. So I drove for this company for much more than 5 months.