From the driver reaction I’ve witnessed on social media recently, the half-hour compulsory break included in the FMCSA hours-of-service rule changes that came into effect this past July, seem to have released a whole bunch of pent-up frustration within the driver pool.
I think it is the most foolish rule to be imposed yet. Why? Because how many drivers in North America were not taking at least a half-hour break once per day either in the form of a meal break or off-duty time at the dock?
I’ve heard the word “stress” used more by drivers since July 1 than ever before.
Stress has been on my mind a lot in the past few years. If you’re a driver, perhaps it has been on your mind too. I’ve been feeling stressed out despite experiencing many positive things in my life. This had me concerned to the point that I was even perusing mental health Web sites at one point, checking the warning signs for depression. I just seem to be in a funk, a general feeling of fatigue and frustration. I’m generally not unhappy, although that pops up from time to time. In a way, I’ve been glad to hear more drivers voicing their concerns over stress on the job. I’m obviously not alone.
As I look back over the columns I have written, the issue of time spent on the job comes up quite frequently, and I usually relate that to feelings of stress. I’ve called it the difficulty in finding a balance between work and home when the scale is always tipped towards the amount of time spent on the job. So obviously I haven’t found a solution to resolve these feelings of stress. So I’ve been asking myself, what gives here? My wife and I have a loving relationship that strengthens with each passing year. We have a wonderful daughter and two beautiful grandchildren. The relationship I have with my employer is built on honesty and integrity and provides well for my family. When I look around at the state of the world, I recognize how lucky I am and I am truly grateful.
Despite all those positives, I still find myself asking the question: Is this trucking lifestyle really for me? I find myself thinking about the many things I’m missing out on as I cruise down the road. Thoughts of family, of play, of hobbies, and of relaxing and doing nothing at all. As a driver, do you find yourself asking similar questions? When you get to your home time is it frenzied and rushed and does that suck some of the enjoyment out of that time?
Here’s an example from my own life. Home renovation is something my wife and I enjoy doing together. Our home is somewhat of a playground for us. My wife has a flare for design and can visualize changes in her mind’s eye. I can make it happen. Our skills complement one another’s and we really enjoy that time together. We are just finishing up a major kitchen renovation we started in the fall of 2010. Because of my recent push to see this project finished up, I have not been getting to the gym on a regular basis or getting out for my regular runs. A regular exercise regimen has become an important part of my life over the past decade. I’m missing it. That limited home time has seen me sacrifice one thing I enjoy doing for another. That frustrates me. Situations like this arise time and again for me.
Okay, so as drivers we know we can’t have it all. This profession requires that you commit a large block of your time to the job. That’s why it is so important that we maintain the ability to decide for ourselves how we use that time. I think the mandatory imposition of the half-hour break has hit a sore spot in this regard. It’s politics, not common sense. It’s window dressing to satisfy the strong safety lobby that exists out there but does nothing more than place an additional burden of compliance on the driver.
As far as the stress I feel goes, I know that for the most part it is self-imposed. When I stop thinking about all of the things I want to do when I get home and bring my mind into the present moment, I enjoy every minute I am out on the road. When I am at home and put aside thoughts of the limited time I have available and of all of the things I won’t get done and simply enjoy the present moment, again, I am able to enjoy every minute of that time. That advice I give to myself appears to be a simple and sensible solution. It’s anything but.