After a long day of driving, Lakeesha Martin, a veteran long-haul truck driver, decided it was time to end her day at a nearby truck stop and take a shower before finishing up the 1,000-mile trip she had left to deliver her load.
Martin, an owner-operator from Woodbury, New Jersey, told FreightWaves that she secured her truck and headed into the truck stop to purchase her shower. After the loud speaker announced her shower was ready, she said she made her way to her shower door.
That’s when Martin said she heard whimpering from the shower stall next door.
Martin, a 26-year trucking veteran, said she pushed the door open to find a beaten woman on the floor, whom she later found had been there for three hours. The woman was covered in blood, her clothes were ripped, her face was badly bruised and her once-blonde hair was stained red. The truck driver said she held the woman and screamed for help.
That moment inspired Martin to write her book, The H.E.R. Method: You Are Precious Cargo, a personal protection guide for truck drivers.
In an interview with FreightWaves, Martin explained why it was important for her to write this book and share the training she received with others in the industry.
“Growing up, I never had a fear of being unsafe because I was taught [personal protection] skills from being the baby sister of five older brothers,” Martin said. “I eventually took martial arts and became a weapons specialist. Because of this training, it was easy for me to be aware of my surroundings, but not all people are competent in self protection. Having to travel the highways and deliver freight makes this book even more needed as drivers can become targets for assault and attacks by predators.”
In this industry, women in particular can be easy targets, Martin said, but she wanted to create a system for self protection that could help all women, no matter what situation they may face.
“Everything that women face in the trucking industry will also be obstacles that they will face in every aspect of life,” Martin told FreightWaves. “Women are still considered to be the weaker sex and are vulnerable in all industries.”
Her systematic approach, called the H.E.R Method, is a simple way to remember how to be mindful and to approach situations that may become dangerous. The method is named after:
HEED: Pay attention to your surroundings and survey the scene
EXECUTE: Mentally prepare and plan a route of escape
RESPOND: Defend yourself and find a safe place
Martin’s book describes these actions in greater detail and can help women learn self-defense lessons that she developed over her 26-year trucking career. She said there are ways the industry can still improve to help protect drivers on the road.
“[The] pressing issues would definitely be better armed security and proper lighting that covers all of the parking areas, paying special attention to the rear,” Martin told FreightWaves. “[Also] I would implement the option for the showers to be announced inside an app instead of announcing them over the PA system.”
Even with those improvements, she said it is up to every person to learn these life skills.
“At the end of the day, the ultimate responsibility for our protection lies with the individual,” Martin said. “It is the main reason why I took my many years of experience and created this tool to assist others.”