Taking time to enjoy the drive

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I’ve recently taken to letting go of everything and falling into the rhythm of driving whenever I can. Muting and dimming all the non-essential electronics and just letting the world flow by is something I find highly satisfying. Dealing only with what unfolds in the present moment is the safest and most joyful action I can take behind the wheel.

There are so many different sides to this line of work. Finding the joy in all sides may not be easy, or perhaps even possible. The best times for me are when I find myself on the two-lane roads of Northern Ontario at a time of day that I drive for miles without seeing another vehicle.

This usually happens in the dead of night. Slipping through the rock cuts under a starlit landscape is a beautiful thing. I never get tired of it. The joy of driving is a side of our work we don’t celebrate or encourage enough. It’s not something we talk about regularly in driver safety meetings, but we should. Our health and safety issues are rooted in what’s good for a driver’s healthy state of mind.

When I was mentoring new drivers, one of the greatest accomplishments for me was to see a new driver smiling and enjoying the drive itself. It was at that point that I knew the driver had found that place of joy.

It usually came when the novice driver found the truck was becoming an extension of themselves and not something they had to tame. That’s a feeling that doesn’t come easily and it doesn’t come without an investment in time and care from an experienced mentor. It’s also a feeling that allows new and novice drivers to move on to tackling all the challenges in this work with a degree of confidence. It’s the point where a new driver can start letting go and enjoying the rhythm of the drive.

Finding joy in driving is also productive driving. Moving your focus away from getting where you have to be by a certain time to enjoying each moment as the day unfolds is when everything starts to fall into line. Your stress level comes down as you are no longer watching the clock tick down.

You operate in a larger cushion of space. Heavy traffic becomes less stressful when it is just part of your normal daily routine. You become more fuel efficient and profitable. The 600-mile day becomes your norm. Fatigue is more easily managed and recognized.

There has been a growing feeling amongst drivers, especially experienced drivers, that it is no longer fun out on the road anymore. This comes from the imposition of rules designed in the name of safety and productivity but not designed with the professional truck driver in mind. The hours-of-service rules we live with and the electronic logging devices that enforce the hours-of-service rules are the two pieces that undermine a professional driver’s morale. They are a necessary framework, but simply impose compliance rather than promote, encourage, and allow space for drivers to embrace a culture of safety in a relaxed and joyful manner.

This brings me back to what it is to let go of everything and enjoy the rhythm of driving. A well-planned day doesn’t require that I watch the clock or feel the stress of the imposed time limit we know as hours-of-service. Dimming the screen of your electronic logging device and turning off the volume is the greatest single thing you can do to benefit your own mental health. Doing that hinges on the confidence you have in your own knowledge and skills and in turn that is rooted in the job training you receive, its design, and the quality of its delivery to you.

Professional training and accreditation is what we need. I’ll never back down from that ask.

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Al Goodhall has been a professional longhaul driver since 1998. You can follow him on Twitter at @Al_Goodhall.

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