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What are the Consequences of Truck Abandonment?

January 14th, 2022

Blake Hagberg

Blake Hagberg

Blake has spent over ten years in the trucking industry. As an operations manager in the vans division, he works almost exclusively with independent contractors. Prior to joining the ATS team, his time was split between less than truckload freight, over-the-road trucking and dock operations.


Have you ever considered just quitting your trucking job and leaving your truck exactly where it’s parked? 

I think we’ve all probably had fleeting moments where we’ve considered quitting our jobs on the spot and leaving our workstations just as they are, grabbing our coats and walking out without saying a word to anyone and never coming back.

As a truck driver, your truck is your “office.” And maybe sometimes you just want to leave the keys in the ignition and have a car take you back home. Maybe you’re frustrated with your fleet dispatcher, your customers or the job in general. 

As an Operations Manager at Anderson Trucking Service (ATS) I have experienced truck abandonments and the frustrating aftermath. I’m here to tell you that abandoning your truck on the side of the road or at a random truck stop will have a significant impact on your finances and your career aspirations as a truck driver.

Keep reading and I’ll tell you exactly why abandoning your truck can mean kissing your trucking career goodbye. 


What is a Truck Abandonment? 

A truck abandonment occurs when a driver leaves their truck in an unauthorized location. Abandoning a truck leaves the truck open to vandalism or theft. 

An unauthorized location is any location that is not the designated spot your trucking carrier told you to return your truck to. This includes the keys and any equipment that belongs to the company. 

A driver may leave the keys in the ignition or lock the truck and give it to a truck stop attendant; either way, it is a truck abandonment. Some drivers will even leave the truck with the windows down or the engine running. 

Simply leaving the truck unlocked subjects it to vandalism on the outside or inside. Vandals may draw graffiti on the outside of the truck or leave trash on the inside. 

In some cases, people will drive off with the truck because the keys are in the ignition. 

A driver may also quit under dispatch, which means they have either accepted an assignment or they have a load. When they quit under dispatch, they abandon both the truck and the load, leaving the customer high and dry. 

Another cardinal sin in trucking is holding freight hostage. It doesn’t happen often, but a driver may hold the freight and fail to deliver it until their trucking company gives them something they want.

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What Happens to the Abandoned Truck? 

When a truck is abandoned, the company is responsible for recovering that asset, which is often worth between $150,000 and $200,000. 

Recovering the abandoned truck can cost the trucking company, on average, $2,500 to $5,000. Depending on where the truck is and whether there is freight that needs to be picked up as well, it can cost significantly more. 

Typically, trucking companies don't even learn about truck abandonments until a truck stop attendant calls or officials call. They notify the company that they’re going to tow the truck or that the truck appears to be cleaned out and abandoned. 

Drivers will just ghost the trucking company. Other times, in a heated conversation, drivers will say they’re going to “dump the truck.”

In some cases, if the truck was parked in a towaway zone, the trucking company will be notified that the truck is about to be towed. If this happens, thousands of dollars in fees can add up from the tow lot — fees that the carrier is responsible for paying for in order to get their asset back. 

The operations department will have to locate the truck via the truck’s GPS and call local authorities or a truck stop attendant to confirm the truck’s location. Then another driver has to be dispatched to pick up the truck. 

This wastes not just the trucking company’s time and the time of the driver who had to pick up the truck, but the time of everyone else involved — from the local authorities that have to do a welfare check on the truck to the truck stop attendant that has to check on the truck.

Sometimes, if time-sensitive freight was left with the truck, a driver will be pulled off a load and sent to deliver the freight as soon as possible to maintain customer relationships. 

The company has to pay the cost of getting that new driver to the truck’s location. Oftentimes the driver is flown there or they have to rent a car. This not only costs the carrier money, but the driver is not pulling freight so the company is down a driver.


What Happens to a Driver if You Abandon Your Truck? 

Any one of these three behaviors — truck abandonment, quitting under dispatch or holding freight hostage — will ensure you never get hired at a reputable trucking company again. 

These behaviors will show up on your work verification report, so when you apply to a new carrier, they’ll see this. Hiring guidelines at most companies forbid driver recruiters from hiring a driver who has abandoned a truck. 

There are few, if any, reasons why it is okay to not return the truck. If you have a medical emergency and are physically unable to drive the truck or you suffer a medical emergency in which you have to be taken from your truck to the hospital, that is excusable. Most trucking companies will work through problems with you to ensure the truck gets returned properly.

But if you are just frustrated or you think you’ll have to quit soon to go to a  new carrier and you don’t feel like dropping your truck off where it needs to go, you can count your career over for at least the next 7-10 years depending on the guidelines of the company you are applying to.  

If a carrier finds out that you’ve abandoned a truck while you’re at orientation, you will be sent home immediately. If you’ve abandoned a truck once, there’s a good chance you’ll do it again. Hiring a driver with truck abandonments on their record is a huge liability and a risk that trucking carriers aren’t willing to take. 

The financial costs associated with abandoning a truck can be significant. Not only is the driver responsible to pay the recovery costs of the truck, but the driver will also need to pay for the cleanup cost to repair the truck back to factory standards so the company can use it again. 

If you have a maintenance account, that will likely be cleaned out by the trucking company to cover the cost of recovery and repairs. Your final settlement check may also be withheld from you. 

This can cost tens of thousands of dollars, especially if the truck was towed and the carrier has to pay fees to have the asset released to them. If the truck was trashed and graffitied, the repair costs rise as well. 

Keep Your Career On Track — Don’t Job Hop

By now you should understand the severe consequences of abandoning a truck. 

If you are concerned about getting a truck back to an authorized location before you have to be at orientation for another trucking job (it happens), talk to your dispatcher. They can work with you to get you transportation home as long as you bring the truck back to an authorized location. 

Trucking carriers lose a significant amount of money when trucks are abandoned, so they’ll work with you to accommodate you so they can get their asset back — even if that means they allow you to drop the truck off at another terminal that they normally wouldn’t allow you to drop off at. 

At ATS, we want to help you be the best truck driver you can be. If you want to keep your career on track, you should be aware of the other mistakes you might be making and the ways you can improve as a driver. 

You might feel upset with your carrier or burned out, but hopping from job to job or abandoning your truck isn’t the right solution. If you are feeling frustrated and want to hop to another job, we’ve put together an article that will help you decide when it is right to move to a new job and when it isn’t.