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Driver Lifestyles

Dealing with Family Issues from the Road

By Sandy Long
Posted Aug 16th 2013 5:52AM

Driving down the road, under a hot load, your phone rings. You answer only to hear your brother sobbing that his oldest son committed suicide. You are shocked; you quickly think of where you are going, the opposite way from home. You want to get there, but the load has to go. What do you do?

Dealing with family issues while on the road can be stressful and dangerous for you and those around you. One has to accept the fact that at some point, something will come up while you are on the road and you will not able to get home immediately. Planning ahead, setting up support systems and having emergency funds available is a good start to dealing with family issues.

If you are running team with your spouse or partner, make sure that you know every aspect of the truck business and operation so that if necessary, you can run it solo. Talk about how you will handle things if a family emergency occurs with your partner.

Case in point: after the kids were grown, a wife decided to go to truck driving school and join her owner operator husband on the road. After working on the truck with him for over a year, he got a call that his father was in the hospital and not expected to live long; he should fly home immediately. Even though they were under load and running with some friends going to the same receiver who could assist the wife if necessary, he refused to allow her to solo the load out. He did not get to see his father before he died. She felt not trusted. This could have been avoided by talking about what to do in different situations beforehand and making plans.

A driver for a small company got a call that his 5-year-old daughter had been burned to death in a house fire, everyone else got out, though injured. He was 2000 miles from home. He did not have the money or a credit card to fly home. The company offered to pay his ticket to fly home, but he did not want to leave his truck out in nowhere. The company, knowing the driver was known to all of the other company’s drivers and well liked, called every driver to notify them of what happened. The other drivers networked to set up phone schedules and talked to the driver all the way home, every minute of the trip, so the driver was not alone.

While a support system within the total drivers of a company is not feasible for everyone, other support systems can be set up. Family, close friends and perhaps your minister should be aware that something like the above might occur and you will need their immediate support. Not only can those people talk to you, they may be in the same town or nearby, can get you accurate information, or assist in taking care of a situation.

A lady driver assists her 89 year old mother who lives on the driver’s property. While the driver’s mom is able to care for herself and still drives in the little town they live in, sometimes something occurs that the driver needs her mom checked on. A year or so ago, her mom had fallen on the patio between their houses and her mom was unconscious. Luckily, the driver’s yard care man was there and saw the mother fall; he called emergency assistance. More recently, no one could get in contact with the driver’s mom by phone when she should have been home. The driver was able to call a neighbor, set up in advance for this purpose, to check on her mom; she had decided to go to the store and was thankfully all right.

When the lady driver’s mom moved in, the driver changed her running pattern from coast to coast to regional with flexible hometime and home on weekends to assist her mom. She found a small company that was family run to work for who understood the family issues involved and who would get her home immediately if necessary; she is rarely over 11-12 hours from home.

Having a family member, whether old or young, living in your house while you are gone presents some challenges, things break, issues arise that need be taken care of and perhaps the person at home is not able to know what exactly to do. For instance, the lady driver mentioned above and her elderly mother. The lady driver has set up business people to take care of any issue while she is gone making sure they understand the situation and arranging for billing accounts for her.

Her list that her mom has also includes a handy man to take care of finer repairs, an odd job/yard man to take care of the yard, flowerbeds and any heavy work that needs done. A car repair shop, a plumber, heating and cooling people and an electrician rounds out the list. The local police department has also been notified that her mom is there alone through the week and instructions have been made about how to handle well-being or emergency calls if necessary along with a list of people allowed on the property.

Emergency funds are sometimes difficult to accumulate. Some people carry a credit card dedicated just for emergencies. Either cash enough or a credit card for a plane ticket or rental car and subsequent expenses is necessary if one has family at home. There is no set amount, it will differ depending on your operation, you should stay up on current travel prices to your home from different areas of your operating area.

Finally, there is the personal level of dealing with family issues, how do you handle driving the truck safely while perhaps dealing with emotional responses. The answer depends on you; everyone deals with emotional upheaval differently.

Usually, the initial shock is the worst in worse case scenarios such as a death of a loved one. Park the truck in a safe area as soon as possible and do what you need to do, cry, get angry or any other strong emotion. Notify your company to what is going on as soon as you can and start making arrangements to get home if necessary. If you have a co driver, let them drive. If it is a major crisis such as a water pipe breaks at home, do the same, park the truck in a safe place and make what calls you need to make to take care of the situation, this way you are not distracted. The few minutes to take care of the situation will not adversely affect your schedule as much as a wreck would.

While everyone experiences some sort of crisis while on the road, with proper planning, most will not be so bad to deal with; the hardest part is accepting and acknowledging that it is not if something will occur, it is when, then dealing with it while staying safe and sane.

Dealing with issues while on the road is a common issue many drivers for third-party logistics companies face on a daily basis in some form.  Learn the best way to handle these occurrences with education and experience.

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