Reasons why truckers may feel they want to abandon a truck include emotional stress, not getting home when promised, continual truck breakdowns, being issued a load under forced dispatch with a financial penalty attached, etc.
Let us also be clear about this:
There is a difference between
- being carried away from your truck (such as might happen if you’re involved in such a bad truck accident that you’re taken to the hospital) and
- voluntarily walking away from your truck and your job.
If there is one “straw that broke the camel’s back” in trucking, it would be to abandon a truck.
This action — which is even worse than taking actions that get truckers fired — will almost certainly classify a trucker as unhirable by any trucking company ever again. Period.
In today’s economy, you don’t want to render yourself never be able to drive professionally again.
Taking Care of What’s Left Behind
Once when we team drove for Swift, we were assigned to pick up an abandoned truck in Gas City, Indiana, and bring it to the nearest at-that-time terminal in Monroe, Ohio.
It had been parked in a rundown parking lot much like the one pictured here.
We have no idea why the driver chose to abandon a truck, only that he did.
It was amazing to us where the driver had left the key: in a place so easy to find!
To this day, we shudder to think how easy it would have been for anyone to just grab the key, jump in and drive off.
To abandon a truck means that the truck that was left behind is fair game for theft or vandalism. (How would you like to be on the hook for abandoning a vehicle worth tens of thousands of dollars?)
By the way, it wouldn’t have done any good for the trucker to have left the truck key “with” someone because where he parked it, there was no one to leave it with. Abandoned means abandoned.
Mike drove the abandoned truck while Vicki drove the company truck that had been issued to us, both to the designated terminal.
Pushed Too Far?
We completely understand how some truckers could be pushed to the brink by some unscrupulous trucking companies.
But never abandon a truck issued to you. You wouldn’t abandon your own personal vehicle somewhere just because you got upset, would you?
We’ve done our best to warn folks from hiring on with companies that have reports of exploiting truckers.
So consider your actions fully before you take drastic steps.
Even deciding to bobtail or deadhead back to a terminal without permission (assuming you’re a company driver) can put you in hot water.
We recommend keeping the lines of communication completely open with your driver manager.
Going Beyond Abandoning a Truck?
Vicki once responded to a trucker who “trashed” a truck (her words).
The driver had done despicable things to the vehicle before abandoning it.
Whereas above, we mentioned how someone else could vandalize a truck after discovering an easy-to-find key, this driver basically vandalized the truck himself!
As Vicki responded to the trucker, not only may such an action make him financially responsible for the clean-up, but he may also be on the hook legally!
Consider your actions and their ramifications in advance!
Returning Your Truck
Instead of choosing to abandon a truck, here’s what we recommend regarding returning your truck:
- Clean out all of your possessions (if not at home, then perhaps into a rental vehicle);
- Return the truck to a company terminal in excellent condition (make sure it’s clean);
- Make sure that a trucking company employee signs off on its delivery;
- Get and keep a copy of the form that was used to sign off on the truck’s delivery for your records; and
- Turn in your keys and anything else that is required (like a company badge, fuel card, etc.).
What if My Trucking Company Doesn’t Have a Delivery Sign-Off Form?
What happens if you turn in a truck but your trucking company doesn’t have a delivery sign-off form?
- You’re used to handling bills of lading for all cargo you deliver.
- Rental car agencies require you to inspect a vehicle before driving off, and having the vehicle inspected upon return.
Why should turning in the truck you’ve been driving for a trucking company be any different?
Insist on having someone sign off on the delivery of your truck, even if it is a mechanic in the shop.
You may even insist upon having it inspected before the form is signed.
And if there is no company form, you can use ours (see our Free Downloads page).
Falsely Accused of Abandoning a Truck?
How will you know if an “abandoned truck” charge was falsely placed on your record? Check your DAC report.
If you find an untrue report from your former trucking company, then take action. Do not take a false charge lightly or without a fight!
Get in touch with the person whose name is at the bottom of the form used to sign off on your truck’s delivery. If that person is no longer with the company, ask to speak with that person’s supervisor. Keep going up the chain of authority until you get the matter resolved.
If you can’t get resolution yourself no matter how high up in the company you go, you can always get trucker legal help. Share a copy of the signed delivery receipt with your attorney. This is your proof of your delivery. Your attorney will take it from there.
If you have no receipt, it’s your word against their word. Written documentation is always the best proof. Let there be no truck abandonment charges!
Although it will likely do little good from the standpoint of clearing your name, you can also speak out about your experience online, perhaps on a truckers forum.
Money saving tip: Know your trucking company’s policy regarding turning in a truck. If your company does not have a truck return form (usually a checklist), create one (or use ours, linked above) and insist that it be signed.
Take at least a little bit of time to clean your truck inside. You can sweep the floor, run a handheld vacuum cleaner where needed, and use baby wipes to clean the dusty areas. Take the time to leave it in the shape that you would want the truck to be in if it was just being issued to you.
Make sure that the turn-in form accurately represents the state of the truck when you turn it in. When we were getting ready to leave Swift, the person who filled out the form generically assigned the truck as “dirty” inside. Oh no! We had cleaned it thoroughly. In fact, we left it cleaner inside than when the truck had first been issued to us. So we challenged him to look inside the truck and see that it was clean. We required him to change the truck’s condition to “clean” before we would sign off on the form.
Monitor your DAC report regularly as a matter of course against false entries.
Keep enough money in your emergency fund to cover a trip home in the event that you need it at any time. All car rental agencies that we know of require the use of a credit card to get a rental vehicle. So keep enough of a buffer in your credit line to permit a car rental and trip home.
Finally, if you were so agitated by your former trucking company that you were ready to abandon a truck, evaluate what it was that irritated you so much. Then, either work through that issue or find a company that doesn’t behave the same way.