We need to talk about driver loneliness and isolation

by Al Goodhall

Lonely road

is a fine line between solitude and loneliness when you live in the cab of a truck. There is a deep attraction to the independence and freedom posed by a life of solitude, yet those emotions can easily slip into the grip of loneliness, destitute of friendly companionship in all its forms. This can be the path to feelings of melancholy and depression.

Solitude is one of the factors that attracted me to truck driving. I was transitioning from the retail sector, highly social in its nature, and I needed a line of work that provided me with some seclusion, privacy, and personal space while challenging me with a new skill set and allowing me to support my family at the same time. Longhaul trucking fit the bill perfectly.

In those early days there was so much to discover that feelings of loneliness never entered into my daily life. There was plenty of peace and personal space available to me in those first years, which allowed me to take the time to reflect and look inward. This was something I did not have the time to do in my previous career. As a manager and business owner, my focus had always been on those around me — employees and customers.

I continue to find immense pleasure in the independent nature of the trucking lifestyle. When challenges arise, I have only my own actions and decisions with which to hold myself to account. To this day I find that incredibly attractive. There is a great peace and happiness in the solitude of the trucking life for me.

Of course, nothing is permanent. In that first decade of my trucking life there was only my wife and I to think about. My daughter was a young woman finding her own way and she lived and worked in Taiwan for a number of years.

My wife was able to travel with me at will when I was doing open board work in my formative trucking years, so being away from home for extended periods was not an issue. In fact, we were able to take advantage of the travel and connect with family on the other side of the country on a regular basis. Then things changed. My daughter returned home and started a family.

I can’t put into words the feeling of holding my first grandchild in my arms. When the second arrived less than two years later, those feelings were compounded. The arrival of grandchildren changed my perspective on life in so many ways.

My grandchildren put a spotlight on the value of time, and the fact I don’t get the moments back that I am not there with my family to enjoy. This is the period in my trucking life when loneliness reared its head and became a regular companion on my travels. It remains with me to this day.

So, it is a struggle for me to keep the forces of solitude and loneliness in balance. My employer has helped me immensely. I now work a regular dedicated gig that takes me from my home terminal in southern Ontario to our terminal in Winnipeg and back every week. I have done this for several years now and it is helpful, but not perfect. Life is difficult. Keeping your personal life and working life in harmony is difficult for all drivers of any age.

The industry as a whole continues to put the spotlight on new driver training and skills-only training as a panacea for safety and health. But as we age, the more important it becomes to talk about and learn about what goes on inside our heads, resulting from all those years of solitude and loneliness. This is where safety lives. It should be part of all drivers’ ongoing training and education. It is a fine line indeed, and we need to talk about it.

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  • The whole truck driver model needs to be locked at in terms of time on the road and wages for hours worked and life on the road in terms of time away from home and treatment in the event of injury.

  • If you have issues of being alone and isolated, then trucking is not for you. But, if you enjoy your own company and feel comfortable with yourself, then trucking is super great. There’s not a better feeling than being free of total BS from other humans. However, having a bubbly-pop with a fellow truck driver at a truck stop that has a Bar is extremely healthy the most rewarding.