What items should truckers have in an emergency kit?
That depends on each driver’s specific situation.
Although we will refer to them as a “kit”, others may call such a group of supplies a
- “bug out bag,”
- survival pack,
- emergency preparedness kit,
- set of disaster response tools, etc.
We provide some suggested items that may or may not fit neatly into one backpack, Alice pack or box.
We show a number of items below from Amazon.com, with whom we have an affiliate relationship.
What is an Emergency?
Wikipedia defines an emergency as “a situation that poses an immediate risk to health, life, property or environment.”
For the purposes of this page, we will focus more on survival in an emergency, whatever that may be for you.
Emergency situations for professional truck drivers may include but are not limited to the following:
- tornado or high winds;
- falling objects;
- snowstorm, blizzard, hail or ice storm;
- lengthy traffic jams (such as the 60-mile one in China);
- road, bridge or tunnel failure;
- truck break down;
- economic collapse;
- riots, acts of war or terrorism;
- electromagnetic pulse; and
- land-based power failure (including inability to use credit cards, access online bank accounts or pump fuel).
We cannot possibly foresee the types of emergencies you may encounter, so our emergency kit lists are generic and intended to help you prepare for most times of distress.
In this order, we are going to provide:
- our assumptions;
- the generic lists; and
- a list of suggested items.
OK, let’s go.
Our Assumptions Regarding a Trucker Emergency Kit
- Unpredicted emergencies: No one can predict with certainty when an emergency will arise or what type it will be. Just as is the case with having insurance, you buy it with the hopes that you will never have to use it.
- No duplication: Although there may be a bit of overlap, please note that this information is a bit different from what we have on our Packing List page. Our listings on this page will not be exhaustive emergency kit lists but are meant to be a guide. They are also primarily intended for American and Canadian drivers, although any trucker around the world can use the information. Please use your own best judgment.
- Solo drivers: Our suggestions are based on drivers who are not part of a team. If you are part of a trucking team, you will need to double up on some of the items.
- Trucker targeted: Because you as a professional truck driver travel for a living, your situation may be far different from folks who have a “day job” and go home every night. At any given time, you may be anywhere between your home terminal and thousands of miles away from home. In an emergency, you may not have the luxury of being near home, a terminal, a truck stop or even a restroom facility. Our lists are designed specifically for truckers. We’re making multiple lists available, roughly broken into sections by the length of time truckers stay away from home.
- Bugging out: Even when an emergency happens, you have a responsibility to your trucking company (if you have one) and taking care of your truck. You just can’t abandon those. For those reasons, the option to “bug out” (depart quickly) from your truck is not usually an option. When it comes to truck driver survival, your truck can offer you at least some protection from the elements in an emergency; for that reason, you will probably not want to venture forth from it too much in some emergencies. Of course, unless you have a full tank of fuel and an APU that provides both climate control and electrification, your situation inside a truck can become dire in either extreme hot or extreme cold conditions.
- Restrictions and limitations: The nature of your truck driver emergency, your location and what you have with you on the road will all dictate whether or not you need to venture outside your truck. We are going to concentrate on preparing for emergencies only with what you can have on hand — even if the size of your truck greatly limits the provisions you can carry with you in your emergency kit. For this reason, we are not going to cover things like what you need to build a fire, hunt for game, go fishing or live off the land. Also, you will need to judge which items you take based upon your trucking company’s restrictions.
- Truck communication devices: Based on FMCSA regulations, trucks need to be equipped with certain items like reflective triangles or flares. For this reason, none of our lists includes these items.
- Tool kits: Unless you are an owner-operator who does your own truck maintenance regularly, you may not need a large variety of tools. A few basic tools — such as a hammer, flathead screwdriver, Phillips head screwdriver, 9/16″ wrench, set of Allen wrenches and pliers — may meet most of your needs. In some cases, you may need a couple of different sizes of screwdrivers. Some drivers may prefer to carry a multi-function tool or Swiss army knife that can be used in a variety of situations.
- Buying and selling: In the USA, we are so used to just going to the store whenever we need to. It is said that grocery stores have only as much food as will last for 3 days. In an emergency, it won’t last even that long. Also, if there is a banking freeze, economic collapse or widespread power outage, you may not be able to use your credit cards or debit cards. We encourage you to carry at least some cash with you; the longer or farther you are away from home, consider increasing that amount.
There is no telling how long an emergency will last. Depending on what happens and how far from home you are, you could be prevented from traveling for some time. We’re going to start with the drivers who can carry the least amount of things with them and progress to those who live in their trucks full-time.
Suggested Emergency Kit for Slip-Seat Drivers or Day Cab Truck Drivers (home daily)
- One gallon of water
- Enough food for two days and protein bars
- Cell phone and charger
- One nationally accepted credit card
- Swiss army knife or multi-function tool
- Pepper spray (for self defense)
- Spare pair of underwear and socks (if possible)
- Truckers atlas
- Hat and sunglasses
- Small medical supply: pain relievers, bandages, moist baby wipes or wet wipes
- Clothing that can be adjusted for changing temperatures and conditions (worn or carried)
- Good pair of shoes (worn)
- Up-to-date medical emergency contact info
Suggested Emergency Kit for Regional Truck Drivers (home every weekend)
In addition to the preceding, we suggest:
- At least three more gallons of water (more if carried food is dehydrated or freeze dried)
- Five more days’ worth of food (to last through the work week) and more protein bars
- Meal preparation product to keep perishable foods cold
- Can opener
- Mess kit (or plate, bowl, cup and eating utensils)
- Cooking device like a hot pot (to run from 12-volt outlet or via inverter) or a solar cooker (which you can make)
- Cooking utensils
- Soap (for washing hands/body and also dishes)
- Washcloth, hand towel and shower towel
- Dish cloth and dish towel
- Sleeping bag and pillow
- Assortment of seasonal clothes, spare pair of shoes and personal weather protection
- More medical supplies (like a whole first aid kit) and sufficient quantity of prescription medications
- Flashlight and basic tools
- National truck stop directory
- Portable toilet and deodorizer
- Personal hygiene items and toilet paper
- CB radio
- Larger amount of cash.
Suggested Emergency Kit for Long-Haul Truck Drivers (home every 2 to 3 weeks or longer)
In addition to the preceding, we suggest:
- More food
- More water
- A water filter
- Another cooking device for more meal variety
- First aid manual
- More clothing
- Laundry supplies
- Plastic bucket
- Small sewing kit
- Larger set of tools
- Emergency radio
- Emergency candles and waterproof matches
- Spare pair of glasses or contact lenses
- Spare batteries for flashlight
- Larger amount of cash.
For your convenience, we have assembled a list of suggested emergency kit items from Amazon.com.
Money saving tip: The best time to prepare for an emergency — and assemble an emergency kit — is in advance.
You don’t want to come up short in the middle of a seeming disaster.
By the same token, don’t go crazy trying to prepare for every possible situation.
Depending on where your loads take you, you may never encounter some types of emergencies.
As an example, it would be like throwing your money away to prepare for a flood in the middle of the desert.
If you study insurance, you will understand that people pay into it to “share the risk.”
You can’t eliminate the risk altogether.
Select the products and tools for your emergency kit that will be of the most benefit to you.
When you run out of consumable goods, be sure to replace them promptly.
Don’t forget to rotate your stock and replace things in your kit that expire.
Depending on your circumstances, you may have to barter for what you need. This is another subject entirely.