Whether you haul local, regional, or longhaul many of you may struggle to balance quality of life with trucking duties and obligations. For most, quality of life refers to time outside of a truck. However, even those times can tend to clog your mind with truck related thoughts.
Truck drivers spend most of their time alone. Long hours pass with little or no communication. Over time it can turn a person from outgoing and fun loving to quiet introvert, mostly lost in their own thoughts. Negativity creeps in and won’t let go.
They put in long shifts dealing with delays caused by crabby shippers and receivers, congested traffic, inconsiderate drivers and must press on even in the worst of weather to complete a run. And all the while they must drive safely and on schedule.
Having precious little home time can lead to bouts with depression over time caused by chronic unhealthy stress of the job. And what if there’s a problem at home and you’re 1,000 miles away, going in the opposite direction? It’s too easy to focus on all the negative thoughts bouncing around in a driver’s head like a pinball.
What can Drivers Do?
Start by training yourself to let go of thoughts swirling around negative encounters occurring daily to drivers everywhere. Reliving unpleasant encounters just makes them stick in your mind. Letting go of these bad thoughts must become your new practice until it gets easy. Forgive and forget people who have wronged you. This will require conscious, repetitive work at first but will gradually begin to improve your quality of life as you practice letting go.
Start journaling each day to record the high points of your shift and your health to get to know what things are good (and bad) for you. Start meditating. There are many good guided meditations available free online. During downtime use them to quiet your mind and it will lead to better, more frequent communication and interaction.
A Hobby can Help
Consider taking on a hobby to relax your mind and body when not driving. We know of a driver who had always wanted to play a musical instrument. He knew he couldn’t fit a piano in the sleeper so he took a harmonica in his shirt pocket. With the help of online instruction he learned to play jazz with gusto and became a much better friend to others.
Another driver started to keep a journal and eventually turned it into an enjoyable hobby side gig by writing fiction during layovers and downtime. Sharing stories inspired by life on the road he never got famous but gained many new friends who love his work. Having a hobby as an outlet for your stressed mind can improve home time.
Some drivers like to take along a dog or cat to care for on trips. It gives them a listening ear when they want to communicate with just a trusted friend. Pets will never shun you or talk harshly to you. A pet can have a calming effect on a tense and lonely driver. Generally, pets love to travel.
Today’s trucks contain many technological advances. Learning to embrace technology will get your mind off unhealthy stress. It can even make you a better driver when you start to realize how to drive economically and safely. That will make you a valued employee in the eyes of management.
Use our golden rule for drivers. “Do unto yourself like you want others to do unto you.” Taking better care of yourself can greatly improve your quality of life. Start looking after your physical health. Many truck stops offer healthy menu options. And performing simple exercise workouts during down time can get you feeling better about yourself and your career.
What can Fleets Do?
Fleets need to take an interest in their drivers’ personal lives. Ask them about their families and their interests. How is home time most often spent? Learn their important milestones such as anniversaries and birthdays and acknowledge them.
Reward good driving habits and customer retention. Show appreciation for jobs well done. Never snub or ignore your drivers. Without them you have no business. Keep in mind they are trained professionals. Treat them with respect at all times.
Ensure that all your non-driver personnel understand that your drivers are under much strain from being alone too long and dealing with unforeseen delays. Instruct them to be proactive in getting driver issues resolved quickly and amicably.
Everyone in your organization can, in some small way, help your drivers experience quality of life. Happy drivers stay with you.