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What drivers should do when they spot emergencies

June 16, 2022
Fleet managers must ensure their drivers know protocol in emergency situations. An executive from PrePass Safety Alliance details the steps drivers should take when they see an emergency.

Professional truck drivers are on the road at all times of the day, in all conditions. They know that the first step in a safe journey is paying complete attention to their surroundings.

Being out there on the road and aware of surroundings also means that truck drivers sometimes witness emergencies firsthand. And more times than not, truck drivers respond—rushing to extinguish car fires, rescuing victims of crashes, helping stranded motorists. These selfless acts are often honored by employer motor carriers, trucking trade associations, and by programs like the Truckload Carriers Associations’ Highway Angel Award, the Goodyear Highway Hero Award and others.

What should truck drivers do when they spot an emergency? Here is advice for fleet managers to share with their drivers.

    See also: 6 legal tips for CV collisions

Step 1: Take care of yourself first.

Don’t become part of the emergency. If you come across a crash in the road that is blocking lanes, stop the truck 50 to 75 feet back, turn on flashers, and place reflective triangles. This will leave room for emergency vehicles and will protect people that may get out of their vehicles.

If you step out of your cab to check if assistance is needed, be very aware of traffic as you get out of your vehicle. Continue to keep an eye on traffic approaching from the rear. Have an escape route in mind in case someone does something dangerous, and then stand in front of the damaged vehicles for added protection. Always keep an eye on traffic!

If you pull to the side of the road to assist a stranded motorist, leave room for emergency vehicles, tow trucks, and law enforcement. Again, place reflective triangles as required by federal law, put on your flashers, and watch out for traffic.

If there are injuries, don’t move the parties unless you need to remove them from a vehicle fire or other immediate danger. Keep them seated and be reassuring.

     See also: 10 most dangerous states to drive in

Step 2: Call 911.

Local or state law enforcement may have an emergency phone number, but 911 is the first point of contact for most situations.

Depending on the situation, the information a 911 operator and law enforcement need will vary, but it always begins with a good locationthe street or highway you are on, as well as direction (for example, northbound), an exit number or the name of the street nearby, and a mile marker. If you must continue down the road, make note of the next exit and estimate a distance back to the incident.

If vehicles are involved, you will want a description that includes the make and model, color, and a license plate number if you are in a position to safely record it. If there are people standing around, describe how many and any distinguishable features.

If you witness a crime, a description of the suspect and victim will be critical, in addition to the location. Items to make note of include the number of suspects, weapons present, approximate height and physical build (skinny, obese, etc.), race, clothing description, and any distinguishing marks or gestures, such as tattoos and limps.

If you believe you are witnessing an act of human slavery or prostitution, call Truckers Against Trafficking at 888-373-7888.

     See also: 25 deadliest U.S. highways

Step 3: Call your dispatch.

Your company will need to know where you are and why you may be delayed. More urgently, your carrier may have people or resources available to help. When law enforcement arrives, they will want to know whether others are also on the way to assist. Many carriers have deployed in-cab cameras that capture highway incidents. Providing the videos and images from electronic devices can help law enforcement and later assist motor carriers with civil cases, staged crashes, and insurance claims.

Professional truck drivers are often “Knights of the Road.” Help your drivers better respond to emergencies by following this advice from law enforcement.

Steve Vaughn is vice president of field operations at PrePass Safety Alliance, the provider of PrePass weigh station bypass and toll-payment and management services. Vaughn served nearly three decades with the California Highway Patrol and is a past president of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

About the Author

Steve Vaughn | Senior Vice President of Field Operations

Steve Vaughn is senior vice president of field operations at PrePass Safety Alliance, the provider of PrePass weigh station bypass and electronic toll-payment and management services. Vaughn served nearly three decades with the California Highway Patrol and is a past president of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

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