Trucking

Work-Life Balance as a Truck Driver: OTR vs. Local And More

CloudTrucks Team

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Introduction

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance as a truck driver is possible, despite the job’s unique demands. Because of these unique demands, the balance between a truck driver’s work and daily life  is doubly important when compared to other industries. 

Fortunately, within the trucking industry, truck drivers have a lot of options for setting up a functioning work-life balance while enjoying a lucrative career. 

The effort to strike the right  balance between truck driving and family life begins by looking at these six key areas specific to truck drivers:

  • Typical workload demands for different types of truck drivers
  • How often are truck drivers home?
  • How much do truck drivers make?
  • What is the upside of this type of truck driving? 
  • Common work-life issues encountered by truckers
  • Finding the balance between work and life demands

Driver Perspective

“Since coming to CloudTrucks, I have been home almost daily, and can definitely afford to take time off whenever I see fit.”

Michael Kasanda, 3 years of experience

A Trucker’s Workload: OTR vs. Local vs. Regional

While trucking is a demanding profession, it is far from an all-or-nothing career. You have a choice between working as an over-the-road (OTR) driver, a regional driver, or as a local driver. Each type comes with a different set of circumstances including how much you earn, how much you are away from home, and what kind of options you have for your daily and weekly routine. Understanding these differences and how they affect the life of a truck driver is essential to striking a work-life balance.

While trucking is a demanding profession, it is far from an all-or-nothing career.

Over the Road Driver Career Path

The core work demands for a typical OTR driver are: 

  • spending weeks or longer away from home
  • operating coast to coast
  • the amount of time an OTR driver spends at home is usually a fraction of the time spent on the road (one day home for each week out in most instances)

These core demands for OTR drivers can be either a pro or a con, depending on your life situation. For a single person, this demand may be preferable, while it may be an undesirable factor for the married person with young children at home. 

The significant upside to the OTR career path is that it has the highest earnings potential of the three major truck driving career paths. 

Regional Driver Career Path

Rather than operating coast to coast for extended periods, the regional truck driver usually operates within a specific region such as the Midwest, Northeast, or West Coast. Because of the shorter distances involved, the typical regional driver is usually away from home for a week at a time, and they usually return home for their thirty-four-hour resets. 

The pay potential is similar to that for the OTR drivers, and how often truck drivers are home is about the same in the long run, but you make it back home more often. 

The significant upside to the regional driver career path is a happy medium between pay potential, work demands, and life pursuits.

Local Driver Career Path

Of the three major truck driving career paths, the work demands of a local truck driver are usually the most predictable. Local driver’s typically move loads within a defined radius in their area and return home at the end of their shift—a significant upside if your life goals, legal status (married or single, parent, caretaker of a loved one, etc.) require you to be home more. 

However, if you prefer more variety in your work environment, you may find the work demands of a local driver to be repetitive, with little change in scenery. 

Additionally, how you’re paid, and how much you’re paid varies greatly. Most local drivers earn substantially less than their OTR and regional counterparts, though some local drivers are able to achieve higher than average pay in certain, specialized sectors of the industry.

Recap

When considering OTR vs. local, OTR vs. regional, and regional vs. local, the three truck driving career options are similar when it comes down to spending long days in the driver’s seat. 

A typical day across all three career options can be up to 14 hours long, with a similar day-to-day work routine that includes common duties like pre and post-trip inspections, loading and unloading, following hours of service requirements, and other regulations, as well as interacting with customers. Load and unload times dictate how much flexibility you have in your trucker work schedule and also depends  on which career path you select. 

Above all, it is essential to examine each career path in truck driving and determine which one will work best for you and your work-life balance. To further aid you in deciding which path is best for you, here are some statistics:

  • According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), truckers may work up to 14 hours straight, divided between 11 hours of driving and 4 hours of other tasks.
  • Drivers are given 10 hours of off-duty per working period. Assuming the driver takes 8 hours to sleep, that leaves 2 hours of downtime each time.
  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for truck drivers (regardless of career path) remains substantially higher than other occupations.
  • According to the American Trucking Association, the industry continues to suffer a truck driver shortage, and this has translated into job security, higher pay, and more options for achieving a work-life balance for drivers. 
  • Traditionally, the work-life balance has been ignored by the American scientific community, but this is beginning to change as evidenced in this research study conducted on the work-life balance of truck drivers funded by the University of North Carolina. 

Challenges for Work-Life Balance

image showing the balance between truck driving job and daily life

A specific set of challenges to finding work-life balance comes with the territory for anyone aspiring to become a truck driver. We want to help you better define your goals and work toward achieving a healthy and happy balance as a truck driver, and to that end, here is a list of the common challenges faced by truck drivers:

Top Challenges

  • Being away from friends
  • Being  away from your children
  • Being away from your significant other
  • Driver safety and compliance
  • Unhealthy food options on the road
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Unusual work schedules 
  • City ordinances that limit where you can travel in a commercial vehicle
  • Legal status, i.e, married vs. single

How to Find Work-Life Balance on the Road

Although there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, you do have a lot of options that can make achieving a work-life balance on the road possible. Please note that some of these suggestions may apply to more specific types of truck drivers, and we invite you to be creative in finding the perfect solution for you. 

Driver Perspective

“My work life and home life balance are so much better since coming on with CloudTrucks because I’m able to work when I want and be home when/if I need to.”

Dominique Maddox, 7 years of experience

1. Try a Flexible Schedule

Try to create a more flexible schedule that allows you to be home for special occasions (children’s events, anniversaries, or even just rest). Whether you work for a company or are an owner-operator, be sure to communicate with your dispatcher or broker. These individuals are there to assist you and can be an invaluable aid in developing a flexible schedule more conducive to a healthy work-life balance. If your company is unwilling to work with you and your scheduling needs, perhaps it’s time to make a change to CloudTrucks, where control of your schedule is always 100% in your hands.

2. Plan Your Route

By planning your route and sticking to that plan, you can create a huge positive impact on your work-life balance. Remember, you’re not tied to your truck. Plan your route so that you can try new restaurants or visit places of interest as you go about your deliveries. With ride-sharing services and taxi services, you can even go out for a movie, a night on the town, visit a historic landmark, or do anything else you can think of that brings you closer to a work-life balance.

3. Learn Something New

From audiobooks to audio courses, college lectures, podcasts, and more, you have a unique opportunity to expand your horizons and carry out your job duties at the same time. There are plenty of available content providers with educational content on a nearly endless selection of subjects.

4. Pack Home Cooked Meals

Bringing your favorite meal with you can remind you of home. It can also be a healthier and cheaper alternative to some of the food options you may have on the road. Or if you prefer, you can bring cooking ingredients, utensils, and cooking equipment with you and enjoy freshly prepared meals in the comfort of your truck.

5. Find Tools to Efficiently Manage Your Business

Find and use tools to automate processes that would take drivers longer to do themselves. For example, with the CloudTrucks app, you can create and book an entire schedule of loads based on where you want to go and how long you want to be on the road. Our Schedule Optimizer will create the optimal schedule for you in just under three minutes.

6. Practice a Hobby

Practice a hobby on the road to take your mind off work after you’re done for the day (such as learning the guitar, journaling, and photography). One driver we spoke with enjoys writing poetry and finds his inspiration in the wide variety of landscapes and people he encounters while carrying out his duties. He says it helps him to relax, keeps his mind sharp, and allows him to document the places he’s been in an interesting way. Another driver said that he enjoys remote controlled cars and planes, and he takes these on the road with him to use as a way to wind down and blow off steam once he’s done driving for the day.

7. Work with a Company that Supports You

Few things can affect your work-life balance more than the company you choose to drive for. Finding a company that supports you and cares for your wellbeing can often make all the difference in the world. With the demand for drivers so high, you have a choice. 

For instance, any company that uses forced dispatch does not have your interests at heart. Instead, look for a company like CloudTrucks, which doesn’t force dispatch drivers. As an independent driver with CloudTrucks, you  choose your own loads and create your own schedules based on your specific needs and preferences.

8. Stay Connected to Loved Ones

Stay connected to your family and friends on the road by calling and checking in. With today’s smartphones, laptops, and wireless internet access at rest areas and truck stops, it’s easy to make video calls, send text messages and emails, share pictures, and more.

If you’re looking to do something special, an old-fashioned handwritten letter is a creative way to add a distinctive personal touch to your communication with loved ones. Most gas stations and truck stops still carry postcards, postage stamps, and a way to mail them.

9. Take Care of Yourself

Maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine, getting adequate rest, and attending to personal hygiene is important for establishing a healthy and happy work-life balance. Meditating, relaxing, or taking in a beautiful sunset or sunrise can work wonders for your mood. 

Meditating, relaxing, or taking in a beautiful sunset or sunrise can work wonders for your mood. 

10. Share Your Truck Driver Work Schedule

Keeping your loved ones in the loop is important for not only your work-life balance, but also for your family’s work-life balance too. Though they may be at home while you're on the road, let your family know your schedule. Create a shared calendar or give your family location updates to let them know when you’ll be gone and when you’ll be home. 

11. Create a Comfortable Sleep Space

If you work multiple days on the road, your sleeper berth is your home away from home. Make sure to keep your sleeper cab as comfortable as possible with a clean comfortable mattress, sheets, photos of loved ones, and other reminders of home.

12. Take Breaks and Vacations

Take breaks when you need to. When working, take regular breaks to stretch and avoid injury, get food, and catch up on sleep. Also, know when it’s time to take a vacation and take time off to decompress and spend time with your loved ones.

Conclusion

Truck driving is a challenging profession, and it’s an industry that asks a lot of its drivers. However, it’s far from a dead-end, soul-devouring kind of job. You’re in the driver’s seat of not only your truck, but your life. So, with a little bit of planning, practice, and the right company–like CloudTrucks–behind you, you can achieve an enjoyable work-life balance.

The benefits of maintaining your work-life balance extend to all corners of your life. A healthy truck driver work-life balance will make it less likely that you burn out and more likely that you will work safer, with better physical and mental health and your relationships at home will be stronger and your life will be more fulfilling.

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