I have been employed as a highway driver for the last 11 years. Truck driving is a catch-22 for me. I experience the feeling of freedom and independence one minute but I am left with a longing for my ...
I have been employed as a highway driver for the last 11 years. Truck driving is a catch-22 for me. I experience the feeling of freedom and independence one minute but I am left with a longing for my social network the next. I have experienced some of my highest emotional highs and some of my lowest emotional lows while at the wheel. I have a love/hate relationship with truck driving as a result. But the bottom line is, the trucking industry has me hooked.
Variation, challenge and independence. I think those are three ingredients that are always present in the commercial driver’s life. Each of these elements possesses a lot of pros and cons and that is where my love/hate relationship with the job is rooted. Let me give you an example.
In mid-November of last year I started a trip from southern Ontario to Vancouver. I planned to be home for a day or two in early December and then squeeze in another trip before Christmas. I was counting my chickens before they hatched. My truck suffered an engine failure. The truck remained in the shop for three weeks until the engine was replaced. I never made it home until Dec. 22.
So that trip saw me slip-seating into five different trucks and spending a few nights in motel rooms. Luckily one of our Edmonton drivers was on holidays so I had the use of her truck for a couple weeks.
Unfortunately, that truck needed an oil pressure sensor replaced a few days after I got into it, so I had more downtime. I was cursed on this trip. Murphy’s Law. So let’s go back and look at this experience in the context of those three elements I mentioned.
Variation in my day can certainly prevent me from becoming bored. It can also provide high levels of stress. I still had freight to deliver and a salary to earn. No easy task when my wheels are sitting in a service bay.
As drivers, we all face situations like this, or very similar ones, on an ongoing basis.
Challenge? Oh yes. Many challenges. My dedicated truck is my home and slip-seating sucks. Spending three weeks living out of a couple of bags when you are accustomed to your own living, eating, sleeping and cooking space is stressful.
As I was rolling down the road trying to focus on getting the miles, my mind wanted to focus on everything that had gone wrong. By the third week I was feeling that everyone I dealt with was conspiring to make my life miserable and prevent me from getting home. Sound familiar?
Independence is a good thing to have. I don’t have a boss in my truck, I don’t have anyone looking over my shoulder and I don’t have anyone telling me what to do. These are all wonderful things. But when my workplace comes to a grinding halt at one o’clock in the morning, there is nobody to deal with the problem but me. Independence may equal the freedom to choose my own way but it also gives me the responsibility to deal with all the situations that arise. That includes all the issues I didn’t plan to deal with.
We are independents, lease/operators and company drivers. We are teams and singles. Our workplace may be the city, the province, the country or the continent. We all have different levels of experience and skills. The example of my own experience with the breakdown shows that despite our individual differences, we all face the same industry issues and the same personal and emotional fallout that can result.
When a group of experienced drivers get together, discussion often turns to the camaraderie and mentorship that existed between drivers in the past and how that is now missing or on the decline in our industry.
There is nothing better than getting together for a good jaw session with a few other drivers. The stresses of the open road melt away when you can share them with people that really “get it.” Things have changed rapidly in the last two decades. Technological change continues to speed along. Culture is slow to respond and our trucking culture is no different.
I said at the outset that I am left longing for my social network. Technology has brought the social network to our cabs in the form of Internet access.
Twitter, Facebook, blogs, smart phones, Internet sticks and net-books. We don’t have an excuse to not take part.
Using these tools has become as simple as picking up a phone. Social networking on the Internet does not replace face-to-face communication.
It makes more of it possible. Join the conversation. That’s how I see it, over the road.