Truck driving is a unique job in the American industrial landscape. It is a career path that has been idolized in the movies, demonized in the newspapers, and between those two extremes, it is a profession clouded with an aura of mystery, fantasy, and mystique. To dispel the myths, and create an accurate picture of the life of a modern truck driver, we’ve put together this article to share with you the challenges of being a truck driver.
But before we dive deep into those challenges, let’s take a look at the three most common questions asked about the profession:
Is Being a Truck Driver Dangerous?
While trucking is ranked as one of the top 10 most dangerous professions in the United States, the job is safer today than ever before. The key to safety is heavily reliant on drivers practicing due diligence. As long as a driver follows the regulations and laws governing the industry, and as long as they operate according to best safety practices, the risk factors associated with the job are minimized. Granted, unpredictable events occur, but that is a fact of life in every industry.
Is it hard to be a truck driver?
The answer to this question depends a lot upon the individual. Truck driving is subjected to a lot of different factors that can be considered either easy or hard. For example, some individuals may find the operational aspects challenging, such as driving in big cities but have no issue with being away from home for extended periods. Meanwhile, other individuals may find driving in big cities easy, but find it difficult being away from their families. However, overall the job of a truck driver is challenging, but not impossible.
What are some tips to make truck driving easier?
There are many ways to make the job easier and the only real limit is a driver’s imagination. Some of the common ways to make the job easier include comfort items like refrigerators, TVs, and other entertainment options. Utilizing today’s technology like CloudTrucks’ driver app can make truck driving easier with advanced route planning technology, rapid payment, and business intelligence.
Using mobile devices and the internet to stay in contact with your family while out on the road is one of the most popular methods for making the “being gone” part of the job easier to deal with.
Now that we’ve addressed the most common questions, let’s take a look at a few key topics of interest to newer truck drivers and anyone considering a career in trucking. We’ll discuss:
- Problems with the trucking industry
- Coping with truck drivers’ health problems
- Maintaining a work-life balance
- Achieving job satisfaction
Current Problems with the Trucking Industry
Truck drivers have been in short supply for years, but a wave of retirements coupled with those who only quit taking less stressful jobs is exacerbating the crisis in America's supply chain, which has led to empty store shelves, terrified shoppers in the holiday season and bottlenecks at ports. For truck drivers, the shortage is both a blessing and a curse.
On one hand, getting hired is never a problem, in fact, truck drivers experience an enjoyable twist where they are basically interviewing different companies, looking for the right employer to fit their needs, instead of the other way around.
On the other hand, because of the driver shortage, drivers are often required to operate in regions they prefer not to and are often away from home longer than they want to be.
Enough parking is a perennial issue nationwide. In recent years only a few states have made any attempts to alleviate the lack of available truck parking. It’s a critical safety issue that’s often overlooked.
Drivers are required to stop after 11 hours of driving, and they are required to park and rest for a minimum of 10 hours. And while every driver prefers a safe designated area to park, the unfortunate truth of the matter is that there are simply not enough places to do so in many areas of the country, especially areas where there is a concentration of industrial activities.
Supply chain issues
The problems in the supply chain are due to several factors, including an extraordinary increase in the demand for products and the closures of factories abroad. But the situation becomes compounded by a shortage of truckers and worsening conditions across the transportation industry, which make it even more difficult for consumers to get the things they want when they want them.
Rules and regulations are both a help and a hindrance to the industry. Some regulations are outdated, or off the mark, creating more problems than they solve. Other regulations and rules create additional expenses for both the trucking industry and the American consumer. The U.S. government has never placed an individual with industry experience in the key positions for determining these regulations and this has further exacerbated the problematic rules and regulations.
On the other hand, there are an equal number of rules and regulations that are beneficial to the industry, like the no-coercion rule that prohibits trucking companies, shippers, and receivers from forcing or manipulating a driver into operating in an unsafe manner and/or violating safety regulations.
Despite these long-standing problems in the industry, they are outweighed by the many benefits of working in the trucking industry. For drivers, and entrepreneurs seeking to start a trucking company, the barriers to entry are lower than average, making it easier to get started. The pay is well above the national average, and individual drivers can assume full control of their careers by becoming owner-operators. Plus, you get to travel and see the country.
Truck Drivers Health Problems
Like most occupations, truck driving has its own list of job-related health issues. The most common health problems every driver should look out for and take steps to prevent are
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Type II diabetes
- Kidney stones
The key to dealing with these health issues is to implement preventive measures and to keep active self-maintenance. Here are a few basic tips:
- Exercise regularly
- Take breaks to reduce stress by engaging in relaxing activities, resting, or taking walks
- Avoid excessive physical tension and maintain a relaxed posture while driving
- Perform stretches every time you stop to avoid muscle stiffness, and a condition known as driver’s knee
- Communicate with your doctor and schedule regular visits. Ensure they know you are a truck driver so they can more quickly pinpoint any health-related problems, and/or help you to establish a healthy preventative routine for illnesses and diseases that you may be at risk for
Truck driving, like any job, involves balancing the demands of your professional and personal life. Unfortunately, maintaining a healthy work-life balance is never a set-and-forget endeavor. It’s an ongoing challenge that you have to actively engage and stay on top of to make it work. Here are a few tips that work for truck drivers and other individuals working in the trucking industry:
If you don't set boundaries, for example, automatically volunteering to stay out longer every time the company asks, it will be more difficult to maintain relationships or engage in activities you enjoy. Stand up for yourself, make clear what you are and are not willing to do, and stick by that.
Manage your time
Make enough time to get things done by maintaining a consistent and reasonable schedule. With a schedule in hand, balancing your work commitments and your life commitments is much easier to do. And remember to schedule time for yourself. You deserve it.
Learn to say "No"
This one is pretty self-explanatory. But seriously, don’t put yourself in complicated situations, or agree to things you can’t or don't want to do. Just say no.
Disconnect from work
Leave home at the door when you go to work and leave work at the door when you go home. When you’re off duty, you’re not being paid to think or stress about work. Let it go and enjoy your time off.
Develop a support system
This is perhaps the most important work-life balance step a truck driver can take. You’re already out there, on the road alone. But we live in an age where your support system is a phone call or a video chat away. Stay connected with family and friends while on the road. Take the opportunity to make new friends and acquaintances in the industry and take an active part in the trucking community, whether it’s a conversation at a truck stop, or visiting with one another in a truck driving group on social media.
Sometimes, life takes an unexpected turn, or things build up inside and life starts to feel chaotic and hard to control. Don’t neglect your feelings, especially if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed.
Trucking companies offer generous benefit packages, so check to see if your company has a mental health option. If they do, great, take advantage of it. And if they don’t there are still a lot of affordable options available to you. In fact, in the last two years, the mental health industry has expanded to telehealth options that make it possible to meet with a mental health professional when you need to, regardless of where you are on the road.
Work-life balance is critical to maintaining a truck driver's job satisfaction. Like any line of work, trucking comes with its ups and downs, and it has its unique set of challenges. You’ll have good days and bad days, the same as if you were working in any other industry.
It’s the normal friction of life. Just remember, you’re in control, you are the captain of your work-life balance. Make it work for you, and you’ll always find yourself in the driver’s seat of a rewarding and enjoyable career.