Reporting a WA State trucker for making obscene, sexist gestures?
June 27, 2014 7:05 AM   Subscribe

While driving with my young children in the car, the white male driver of a large WA State semi truck suddenly pulled up alongside my car on a WA state road, honked his horn, and made obscene, sexist gestures that simulated cunnilingus, directed at me (I'm a woman). Right in front of my kids.

I've decided I would like to report him, IF reporting it would at all help to curb this type of inappropriate, sexist behavior and save other women and children from being subjected to this treatment. I have his license plate number, the full contact details of his trucking company, and all of the time, date, and location details.

Where is the best place to report this, given that this is a completely intra-WA state matter, and my check of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) complaint process requires the crossing of state lines, which did NOT happen.

Any other advice for me? Thank you.
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I would start with the trucking company. You may have immediate results. Did you get a photo?
posted by mkb at 7:07 AM on June 27, 2014 [7 favorites]

I'm not clear on whether it's a state-owned truck or he works for a private company - but if it's a private company, by all means call his employer and report it. I work for a company with a large truck fleet and we would absolutely want to know (and would take action) if one of our drivers was representing us like this on the roads.
posted by something something at 7:07 AM on June 27, 2014 [9 favorites]

Call the trucking company.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:07 AM on June 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you have the details of the company, call that company and ask for the safety manager. I used to drive on the interstate a lot. Being a dude, I didn't get much of the kind of abuse you're mentioning, but back before they tightened up on CDL requirements (and invented GPS-based fleet management systems), there used to be a lot more extremely reckless driving by 18-wheelers. The safety managers were usually VERY interested, if the company was reputable. One complaint might be the driver's word against some unknown complainant, but I believe they rack up if the driver is consistently stupid.

Sad to state, but I have had far less luck calling law enforcement authorities. They can't do anything unless they see it happen.
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:09 AM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

My dad works as an accounting for a large company that manufactures shipping trailers. If the shipping trailer were manufactured by the company he works for, my dad would track the trucking company down, track down the driver, and make sure that this is dealt with because that's just the kind of person he is.

Your most direct route is going to be to contact the trucking company, but if for whatever reason that comes up dry...if you know the semi manufacturer memail me. If it's the company my dad works for I'll see if he can put us in touch with the right people.
posted by phunniemee at 7:16 AM on June 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

IMO, report it to EVERYONE. And make sure everyone knows that you are reporting it to EVERYONE. Who is everyone? Police, Better Business Bureau, Trucking Company, State Licensing Board (in the State where this Trucking Company is licensed), and local newspaper.

Any big trucking company will have GPS trackers on the truck. They will be able to confirm his location with your report.

Make a stink. Raise hell. If you don't stand up against this jerk, someone else will be his victim later.
posted by Flood at 7:23 AM on June 27, 2014 [13 favorites]

Could tweet about it on 'everyday sexism'
posted by tanktop at 7:26 AM on June 27, 2014

The concept of "interstate commerce" is pretty broad. Report to everybody, including the federal agency you mentioned. No need to limit yourself to a single report.
posted by JimN2TAW at 7:39 AM on June 27, 2014

Easiest way is if you got his "How am I driving?" number on the back. But even if you just know his company's name, you can google and probably find a contact.
posted by emjaybee at 7:43 AM on June 27, 2014

And give them the street, location, time of day, date. A lot of those guys have GPS on their trucks now.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:52 AM on June 27, 2014

Be careful using those 'how am I driving' numbers. I called one once to complain about someone doing 70 in a 35 and the call somehow routed to the trucker.

You can imagine what a fun conversation that was.
posted by winna at 7:55 AM on June 27, 2014 [14 favorites]

Definitely report him to his employer, at the most senior level you can reach at the company. He may be an independent contractor, but it's still going to be an uncomfortable situation for him if they dress him down.
posted by Dansaman at 8:03 AM on June 27, 2014

I used to answer phones for a how-am-I-driving hotline, so my advice is coming from that perspective:

- Please don't take your anger out on the person answering the phone; they get yelled at all day for things they didn't do and probably have zero control over. Be calm and firm and give all the details.
- Speak to a supervisor/manager if at all possible. Ask for one right off the bat. Go as high up as you can. Ask for their full name and direct line, and give your name and contact info and ask for them to call back with a follow-up. If they don't call you back in a couple days, call them.
- Definitely mention that your kids saw, but don't put too much emphasis on that point. So many of the complaints we got included "and my children were in the car!!" and as a result it never held the persuasive power that callers seemed to think it did. Focus on the driver's behavior instead: it was unacceptable, regardless of who witnessed it.
- If you do have a how-am-I-driving number, call the trucking company's main phone number too; the hotline might belong to a different company altogether. Do the exact same thing: go high up, ask for a call back. Calling every authority you can possibly think of is not a bad idea.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:34 AM on June 27, 2014 [8 favorites]

UGH. Definitely report. I'm so sorry - that can be a really disturbing situation and I'm sure having your kids in the car made it even worse.

It's tempting to want to find the 'perfect' agency where you can report this with a maximum amount of effectiveness. But in situations like this, it's better to start a blanket approach and see where you get a bit of traction.

A few things:

1. You can make the first few phone calls about information gathering -- you're trying to find the right place to register your complaint. Your first few calls might not be making the complaint itself. This can be a bit easier to stomach in situations like this. If it feels easier during the process, you can say, "I need to make a complaint about a WA state truck, and I have the number, location, license, etc. and need to who to call. Can you help me figure that out?" --- that way you're not having to describe the exact situation to people until you know it'll make a difference.

2. Keep track of all the people and numbers you call while you're trying to find the reporting agency. It'll make the whole process easier.

3. You can totally ask a friend to help, if the process is difficult for you. I'd make a bunch of calls for a friend, and let her do the final report, if it would help her through the process.

4. Remember that you're not asking about whether you CAN make a complaint, you ARE making a complaint and trying to find the appropriate way to do so. Treat it as a matter of problem solving (i.e. "who do I call?") and not a matter of permission ("can I do this?"). It sounds like a subtle difference but it'll change your voice during the conversations.

Best of luck and hugs as you move through this!
posted by barnone at 8:39 AM on June 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

Did your kids know what the gesture meant? If not, did you explain it or did you tell the kids that the man was being weird? The incident is as disturbing as you allow it to be.
Sure you can call, and complain, and it will boil down to "she said, he said" and the guy might be reprimanded and will have learned his lesson. Or not. In my complaint, I would suggest that the company add a anti-harassment section to their training of drivers/new hires.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:55 AM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

The incident is as disturbing as you allow it to be.

OP has the right to report a driver for actively harassing her while he was driving a gigantic vehicle, while on the job. She also has the right to be upset with sexual harassment. Telling women "it's going to come down to he said/she said, so why bother reporting" is a ye olde silencing technique. Maybe her report won't go anywhere, but it definitely won't go anywhere if she doesn't try in the first place.

OP, my brother and I were driving back from our stepmother's funeral ten years ago. A trucker decided to chase us, and repeatedly try to force us off the road. We called the "how am I driving?" line, and never found out what happened. If we hadn't had been so young/grieving/clueless, I would have called every relevant agency to report this guy. He was trying to hurt us, and he probably got away with it.

Scary people shouldn't be allowed to get away with acting scary, while driving terrifically huge vehicles down public roads. Even if no one gives a rat's ass that he was sexually harassing you, they might care that he was taking his attention from driving.

Report away, but don't just stick with the "how am I doing?" people.
posted by Coatlicue at 9:09 AM on June 27, 2014 [28 favorites]

The thing you don't mention, and should mention, is the fact that to do this he had to take his eyes off the road. You do say that he pulled up alongside you and it's also not clear that this was appropriate for road layout and conditions and traffic.

Be sure to emphasize that in concert with your primary concern.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:43 AM on June 27, 2014 [9 favorites]

Also check the FMCSA complaint requirements closely. If that agency's jurisdiction is based on interstate commerce (I have no idea and am not familiar with the agency), it likely extends beyond "Complainant states that subject of complaint was making an interstate trip."
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:46 AM on June 27, 2014

I work in freight. If you were able to take a pic (which is what I do when a trucker does something illegal) you can report their MC number to the National Motor Carrier Association. They have a website. The MC# is usually on the doors of their truck.
posted by smashface at 10:15 AM on June 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

Oh! If they're intrastate only, you can report the DOT number to the DOT website
posted by smashface at 10:18 AM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry, I don't have anything to add but OP can you post back via a mod to let us know what kind of response you got? When I read this question, my cynical self figured you wouldn't be likely to get a helpful response from whomever you reported it to. I'm curious to hear if you feel like you made any difference.

(Mods - delete this, of course, if you feel appropriate since I'm not answering the question.)
posted by Beti at 11:28 AM on June 27, 2014

I would absolutely call the police. To me this borders on criminal sexual harassment. Maybe no actual crime was committed, but you can leave that question up to law enforcement, and his being questioned by police will put him on someone's radar.

(IANAL, but you can look up the relevant state laws on street harassment here.)
posted by dhartung at 12:54 PM on June 27, 2014

"The incident is as disturbing as you allow it to be. "
The poster has every right to complain to the company that hired this person, and to be appalled/upset/distressed/freaked out/whatever emotion as she wants to be, but if I had my kids in the car, I would not spend energy or time letting the clown upset me. Making a complaint that gets results doesn't require that the person making the complaint do so with high emotional tone. I think the point about safe driving practices is an excellent way to get the company's attention.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:04 PM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

The thing you don't mention, and should mention, is the fact that to do this he had to take his eyes off the road. You do say that he pulled up alongside you and it's also not clear that this was appropriate for road layout and conditions and traffic.


The way you want to sell this, is that he did those things and then made the obscene gesture. I'm not saying to minimize the harassment in your statement, but rather that "he was driving unsafely and harassed me" sounds a lot more damning to his employers complaint line line and organizations concerned about safe operation of trucks than "he harassed me, and also he was driving unsafely".

Lead with the fact that he was being inattentive while operating an enormous vehicle. The harassment is basically the difference between murder and premeditated murder here, as far as getting him in trouble goes. Play it up. It also likely get taken a lot more seriously by a phone operator who may be the kind of asshole who would roll their eyes at this.

Mind you, this is just my personal opinion as someone who would totally complain about this shit, who was raised by a mother who always complained about this kind of stuff as high up as she could go. But i always look for "What's the easiest thing to get them in actual trouble for, rather than just the thing that pissed me off the most". The consequences for having a reported instance of driving unsafely are likely a much bigger deal with his employer than lewdly harassing someone, especially in such a dudebro profession. Sad, but likely true.
posted by emptythought at 5:22 PM on June 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

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