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Driver Lifestyles

Keeping the Balls in the Air

By Sandy Long, staff writer
Posted Aug 20th 2012 7:26AM
Trucking is a jealous entity; it will totally absorb you, take all of your time and destroy your family and friend relationships if you let it. When on the road, truck drivers are working all of the time, even if off duty. They have to worry about the equipment, the load and their own personal safety. If they are not driving, they are getting ready to drive either by chores relating to the job, or sleeping to prepare themselves to drive. Trying to find a balance of time to stay in touch with family and friends outside of the industry takes real skill and can seem like standing on a teeter-totter trying to juggle a bunch of balls.

Missing events in one’s family is most likely the hardest thing for truckers to face; a child’s birthday or school play, a grandchild’s birth, a favorite cousin’s wedding. Even if the event is known about in advance and plans made to get home, many variables can enter in to stop a driver from getting home. Murphy just waits for these times to show up in having the truck break down, an out of season snowstorm or a load cancels. Of course, as an owner operator, a driver can dead head home, but can they do that for every minor event without going broke, no they cannot.

Setting priorities with your family at home and making sure they understand the parameters of the job is hard to do at times; how does one explain to a child that grandma and grandpa might not make it home for the child’s baseball game? To make it up a little to children, you can send postcards and brochures from the places you go sharing the interesting things you see. Give the child or children a map of the country and a box of stick on stars; every time you call, they can put a star at that place on the map where you are.

Getting the adults in your family to understand about you not getting home for events every time can lead to angst on both of your parts. With them, you might need to set down and work through upcoming events and make choices in what you will be home for or not. Furthermore, make sure they understand the load and financial obligations that go along with being a driver or owner operator and how trucking works.

The scariest thing for drivers is when a crisis arises and they are 3000 miles from home. They cannot just leave the equipment and load and fly home to help in resolving the issue; instead, they have to depend on phone updates and can become too distracted to drive.

If you are solo and have a spouse or significant other at home, make sure that you have a list of professionals that can come in and fix any home repairs needed. Interview mechanics in the area so you choose a good one and have that number on the list for car repairs. If you have younger children at home, have someone that you trust who can get there quickly to care for them in case your spouse or significant other has to go to hospital or needs to be away unexpectedly.

If you are a team, your co-driver should be able to do all aspects of the job on the truck so if need be, you can fly home leaving them to take care of the equipment and load if possible. (Surprisingly, there are many husband/wife teams where the wife only knows to drive. She is not allowed to back up, supervise loading/unloading, fuel or check the oil. If this is the case, then she will have to fly home to take care of the crisis.) Having a neighbor or nearby friend is necessary so they can make reports to you if no family member is available to do so until you can get home in some crises. Make sure they have all of your contact numbers.

Elderly parents are another worry many drivers have. If the parent or parents are basically able to take care of themselves, then it is easier. As with a spouse at home, have a list of professionals that the parents can call to come in and do repairs. Make sure there is a list, written in larger block letters, of doctors and emergency services numbers. Take time to go to the local police station and introduce yourself, telling them that your parents are elderly and you will be gone most of the time; give them your contact information. Consider having an alarm system put in your parent’s house including an emergency alert button so they can get help even if they cannot reach the phone.

Maintaining friendships at home is difficult to say the least when one is a trucker. Drivers eat, sleep and drink trucking when on the road and it can get so a driver only can talk about trucking after awhile. Non-trucking people just do not understand trucking language or the lifestyle, they tend to get that deer in the headlights look when a driver says to them, ”˜I was sitting at the hook, doing my log, listenin’ to road dog, when the shine man came by with his mothers. I was just at the streakin’ beacon so needed the shine.”

Because being a truck driver is so all-consuming, making sure that one keeps up with news, hobbies and interests outside of the industry is important. This gives you something to talk about besides the wrecks you see and how angry dispatch made you; while a friend might listen, they do not understand most of it.

Communication is the key to maintaining good relationships and keeping the balls in the air. Cell phones, the internet and social media have all made juggling family and friend relationships easier. With these tools, a driver can keep up with what is going on with others at home and on the road and share photos with family and friends, keeping the relationships going strong. Drivers then can be a presence in spirit if not physically, in their family and friend’s lives.

4 Comments

  • - September 3, 2012
    Linda-=|=-Sandy what a great article! There is so much of what you have wrote that speaks to me.

    When we were with US Xpress my dad passed away and as a driver who had a loaded truck we could not just turn around and go home we had to repower the load. I got home 1/2 hour before my dads funeral.

    We are very lucky in many ways and our daughter is our boarder at home and through her we know many of our neighbors. They think we lead this exotic and exciting life (which in many ways we do) and forget about the times we are driving in the snow or on the ice, fighting wind, a slow shipper or receiver or stuck for hours in traffic not making any money and losing a pre assigned load.

    Facebook in many ways has helped us to stay in touch with all of our family and many friends as they can keep up with us and our pictures and they get a glimpse into our lives and realize it is not all rosy all of the time.

    Trucker talk is not something any of them would understand.... They do like some of the funnier sayings and look at us weird if we forget and use some of our road lingo.

    One of the greatest bonuses to our lifestyle is getting to see distant family more often. We do not have to try and see everyone in a short weekend or possible a lot of family in an hour or two. When we are in the neighborhood we drop in and see our relatives or friends which is awesome! The one fun part is seeing our girls and bringing in our dirty laundry.... Payback for those college days.
  • - September 3, 2012
    Linda-=|=-Sandy what a great article! There is so much of what you have wrote that speaks to me.

    When we were with US Xpress my dad passed away and as a driver who had a loaded truck we could not just turn around and go home we had to repower the load. I got home 1/2 hour before my dads funeral.

    We are very lucky in many ways and our daughter is our boarder at home and through her we know many of our neighbors. They think we lead this exotic and exciting life (which in many ways we do) and forget about the times we are driving in the snow or on the ice, fighting wind, a slow shipper or receiver or stuck for hours in traffic not making any money and losing a pre assigned load.

    Facebook in many ways has helped us to stay in touch with all of our family and many friends as they can keep up with us and our pictures and they get a glimpse into our lives and realize it is not all rosy all of the time.

    Trucker talk is not something any of them would understand.... They do like some of the funnier sayings and look at us weird if we forget and use some of our road lingo.

    One of the greatest bonuses to our lifestyle is getting to see distant family more often. We do not have to try and see everyone in a short weekend or possible a lot of family in an hour or two. When we are in the neighborhood we drop in and see our relatives or friends which is awesome! The one fun part is seeing our girls and bringing in our dirty laundry.... Payback for those college days.
  • - September 22, 2012
    Sandy Long-=|=-My late brother, who was also a driver, would relate some horrendous wreck stories he had seen at family gatherings...didn't bother me, bothered the others tho. I also think that as drivers, like law enforcement, we develop sort of a black humor attitude to deal with all we see...I think we do become hardened too after many years...or learn to hide it well.
  • - September 22, 2012
    Sandy Long-=|=-My late brother, who was also a driver, would relate some horrendous wreck stories he had seen at family gatherings...didn't bother me, bothered the others tho. I also think that as drivers, like law enforcement, we develop sort of a black humor attitude to deal with all we see...I think we do become hardened too after many years...or learn to hide it well.

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