Sadly, we often hear of a truck driver being hit and killed where they should be safest, in a truck stop or warehouse parking lot. At one truck stop last year, there were two drivers hit and killed within days of each other. Why this is happening and what can one do to avoid it ties to both the driver and the walker.
There are many reasons for drivers not seeing someone walking in a parking lot. Usually, when a driver enters a parking lot, their minds are on why they are stopping and what they have to do while there. Perhaps it has been too long between pit stops or they have little available time to do the stop. Maybe the driver is right at the edge of their window for pick up or delivery when they arrive at a warehouse. Then again, the driver just might not be paying attention closely enough to what is going on around them. Speeding and inattention appear to be the most common reasons for not only hitting a pedestrian in a parking lot, but also for hitting other trucks. Another reason cited is the driver just did not see the person walking in front of or behind their truck.
When a driver enters a truck stop, they should adjust their speed to no more than 10 mph; less is better. The driver should be constantly moving their eyes to look for walkers that will intersect their path. Walkers should always have the right-of-way; drivers should never speed up to get by them faster. While many drivers at night turn off their headlights, they say so that they do not put light into a sleeping driver’s bunk, this is not a good practice. A driver cannot effectively see a walker in most truck stops' ambient lighting at night.
Pulling through a fuel island is also a dangerous time for walkers. Many times, one cannot see the next fuel island so it is up to the driver to make sure it is clear before pulling through or up. Always make eye contact with the walker or wave them across, then wait patiently for them to clear your island.
When a driver returns to their truck either after fueling or going inside, the driver should always get his/her ducks in a row before putting the truck in gear. One should do their logbook, settle their coffee cup or open their sandwich, look at the atlas or put on one’s seatbelt before moving the truck. Then look carefully around to see if anyone is nearby on the ground.
If a driver sees another driver in the truck on either side of them getting in or out of their truck, the driver should wait until they are on the ground or safely inside with the door shut before moving their own truck. The driver should also look for drivers who might be on the ground doing a pretrip or a flatbedder checking their tarps. Make sure they are aware you are going to be moving. You might do this by flashing your marker lights or tapping your brakes. This holds true for warehouse parking lots too.
When a driver pulls out of a parking spot or leaves the parking lot, the same recommendations as coming into a truck stop hold true, no more than 10 mph and with headlights on at night. Keep watch for walkers.
The responsibility for your own safety while walking lies primarily with you. A warehouse or truck stop parking lot is not like a city street in a state where pedestrians have the right-of-way. It is up to you to be proactive in your own walking safety.
As you should know as a driver, trucks have many blind spots and there are many things on a driver’s mind when they are driving through a parking lot. A walker should always be aware of the trucks moving around them and wait until it is safe to continue.
Many truckers wear darker clothing due to ease of cleaning. A walker should have something light colored. This might be a light colored cap, reflective tape on a jacket, a safety vest or carry a flashlight. Make yourself visible especially at night.
While it is not courteous to stare into another driver’s truck, it is a safe procedure to glance up to see if the driver is in the seat. If it looks like they are getting ready to pull out, make eye contact with them to make sure they see you.
If a driver is backing, stop and give them time to back and stay out of their way. Do not walk in front of them until you hear the sound of their brakes setting. Never walk behind a backing truck.
If you are going to get out of your truck, glance at the trucks near you to see if they are getting ready to move. Always look for trucks that might be passing you, for instance, while you are in a staging line at a warehouse. Wait until the other truck is clear before getting out of your truck.
Never assume that the truck you are going to walk in front of you is not going to move. This is especially true on fuel islands. Always look up and make eye contact if the driver is in the seat.
If you by chance have a young relative riding with you, make sure they know the proper way to enter and exit a truck; do not let them jump down. If they are young enough, hold their hand when walking. If they are older, then make sure they stay close to you.
If everyone just takes a little time to be safe while walking or driving on parking lots, we would never hear again of a driver being hit and killed, or think about another driver having to live with doing it. Sadly, the statistics are against that happening. Perhaps though, if you follow the above tips and suggestions, it will not happen to you.