New US hours-of-service rules create more stress for drivers

by Al Goodhall

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.

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  • If you ever decide to get out the the trucking gig, don`t go into writing. The number of times you refer to yourself and use the word “I” make your blogs unreadable.

  • The melancholy mood that workers of any stripe feel towards their job os not exclusively that of the truckers life. As I look at my wife and my best friends, I certainly couldn’t do what they do and consider myself very lucky to be doing what Im doing.
    The 30 minutes is trivial piece of posterity that affects and hurts no one.It is unwarranted to feel anything but indifference to the news changes to HOS.
    At last count, There are about 15 hobbies and interests that I engage in on the road or at home with my kitchen also being one of them. But the kitchen is not going anywhere.
    In our connected, convenient, and comfortable world, we fail to notice the changes that have made the truckers life remarkably better. Connecting with friends and family and researching interests has never been easier. The GPS takes you effortlessly where you need to go and, I might add, that it makes projections of the next 24 hours accurate. Not to mention that we don’t have to wear ear plugs anymore to drive. I resist drinking the “Truckers Wine” these days as it can become a cliche and old hack.

    “Everything is wonderful and nobodies happy”–Louis CK.

  • I don’t drive anymore instead i ride an office chair. If i don’t go for a 40 minute walk most days of the week depression soon creeps into my life.

    Exercise even something as moderate as a half hour walk every day is magic at keeping the depression boogy man away!.

    Try it you will notice the difference right away.

  • The only problem U.S. and Canada are having is too many companies are cut throating each othe for less money. Divers should rally together and shut it down for a day. Then you wouldnt have to worry about your half hour break. In 1975 trucks worth $75 an hour priced at $25 to $28000.00 and today trucks worth $154 to $174000.being paid $65 to $75 an hr and everything else has trippled in price, fuel, tires, repairs and not to mention food.

  • it’s all about money, raising revenue right? some university educated type thought up some law to justify their position. Perhaps those who couldnt tell which end of the truck pulls the trailer, shouldnt make rules for those of us who drive them, just so they know (we professional drivers sit close to the front on the left side behind the big round thing called a steering wheel). i don’t need anyone to tell me when to take a break or have lunch, and i doubt very much anyone does we are mostly big boys and girls and dont need anyone else interfearing with a job that’s already to heavily regulated,no one living anywhere can get by without truck drivers, so why don’t they give us a break, leave us to do our job i think we know how and we really don’t need the help of anyone who doesn’t understand it.

  • Next April will be 40 years in trucking for me. Like everyone else, I’ve done the industry-standard drive-til-you-drop workload and I’ve decided that the only answer to the ‘stress’ of trucking is less trucking.
    I’m very fortunate to work for an outfit that for several years has agreed to let me work three days a week — I share the truck with another driver who works the other four. This still means three 11 to 14 hour days but it also means that I have a predictable four day stretch each week of time to myself and my family. The company’s truck works every day, my cross-shift is happy with this arrangement and my attitude has improved considerably.
    Granted, I make less per year but I also pay fewer taxes. My wife and I have made adjustments, many of them, but the upside is more than worth the ‘sacrifice’. I realize that this isn’t always possible for a driver with a young family but, once the children are grown and gone, a mature driver should consider approaching the carrier with a proposal to work less while still being fully involved in the business — think of it more as job-sharing than a part-time position. I would add that carriers should encourage this for their senior drivers — it’s in the interests of both parties to have an arrangement where the company knows that their truck is in safe, experienced hands, and for the driver to realise that he’s not chained to the truck.
    The trucking industry is trying to attract new drivers and it does no one any good to have these potential recruits realise that there is an undercurrent of dissatisfaction among existing drivers about the basic job expectations. The hours-of-service regulations have forced us to give up our lives away from the job. For many of us that’s an increasingly sour bargain.