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Striving for a better work-life balance

Our daughter was married on St. Patrick’s Day and she certainly had the luck of the Irish on her side. We enjoyed record-breaking temperatures, sunny days and everything came off without a hitch. Our house was filled with joyful...


Our daughter was married on St. Patrick’s Day and she certainly had the luck of the Irish on her side. We enjoyed record-breaking temperatures, sunny days and everything came off without a hitch. Our house was filled with joyful merrymaking from morning till night for the better part of a week. It was beautiful, now a memory that will be one of the highlights of my life.

On the last Tuesday of March my day ended at the TA truck stop in Hudson, Wisconsin. It was my fourth day back on the road after the high of my holiday and I felt mentally drained and at an emotional low.

The solitude of the trucking life that I enjoy seemed, on this day, more like solitary confinement. I was missing the simple pleasure of a morning coffee with my wife and an afternoon walk with my grandson. The greatest job hazard we face as truck drivers is the free time our mind has to play with as we travel down the road.

When our minds latch on to thoughts of family times that we all pass up on a daily basis, we’re in trouble. After squeezing my truck into one of the remaining parking spaces at the Hudson truck stop, I found my mind had squeezed itself into a tight space of its own.

Looking for a distraction I grabbed the April edition of Truck News that was sitting on my passenger seat untouched since I picked it up in Thunder Bay two days before. As always I turned first to the editorial page to get a take on our industry from James and Lou.

James Menzies was asking if we have seen the end of the trucking tycoon. The fact the industry is moving towards consolidation of ownership by large companies as a result of the financial stresses of the day is something I don’t find comforting. I’m reminded of a quote from the Dali Lama, “We need money to live, but we don’t need to live for money.”

I’m not aware of any of these big companies today that don’t live for money. James noted that so many trucking companies today were built on the same foundation of “one guy with a truck, a vision and a truckload of ambition.” I work for one of those guys and his family. Like me, he doesn’t live for money either.

Lou Smyrlis tackled the issue of obesity and driver health, asking the question, “Does it make sense to continue ignoring this issue when the answer is so simple?”

The topic of health and wellness is close to my heart and I have written much in this space about the great strides I have made in improving my own health over the past decade. Lou’s commentary reminded me that it was one of my ‘run days’ and I needed to get off my butt and get out of the truck. A workout always improves my outlook on life and helps to pull me out of the doldrums.

These reflections reminded me that I am blessed with a loving wife and family, I work for a group of people that embody the same family values as myself, I have come to grips with the challenges drivers face when it comes to making healthy lifestyle choices on the road, and my profession provides me with ample money with which to live in comfort and provide for my family.

You would think this is a recipe that brings a great deal of ease into my daily life, yet I seem to be experiencing increasing amounts of anxiety and frustration each time I head out on the road. After much soul searching I can only attribute this feeling to the lack of balance I face each day.

You only need to look at one of the hot topics facing the trucking industry today to understand what I’m talking about. Many trucking organizations (and drivers) advocate extending available driving time, or to put it another way, allow flexibility in the rules to allow more hours of driving per week. Really?

How does extending my workweek make it easier for me to spend time with my family? How does extending my workweek make it easier for me to care for my own health and wellbeing? How does extending my workweek reduce the stress and anxiety in my daily life? The answer, on all counts is, it doesn’t.

The beauty of this industry in the past was that it always put people first. As consolidation of ownership moves forward the focus has shifted to the bottom line. As long as we are forced to do more with less, the daily frustration and anxiety will continue to build and the issues of the day will remain unresolved. Our personal and work lives are out of balance.


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