Winter burnout compounded by improving freight environment

by Al Goodhall

Hello Spring! I wasn’t sure if you were going to put in an appearance at all this year. As I looked back over the past four or five months, I realized how burned out I was.

A lot of that may come from the short days, the long nights, and the added workload that winter seems to bring along with it in the form of snow, ice and cold.

We certainly had our fair share this past winter. But over the last couple of months I think many of us have also been feeling the effects of an increase in business and a shortage of seasoned drivers. It’s been great for the pocketbook but hard on the body and mind, especially with all the changes within the trucking industry we continue to face at the same time. I’ve always believed I had a positive outlook. You know, seeing the glass half full rather than half empty.

The great thing about writing these columns and keeping a personal journal is that I always have a snapshot of my state of mind at any given time.

As I read over some of my articles and personal entries from this past winter, I was surprised at the negative theme in many of them. After writing my column about pay-per-mile versus pay-per-hour, I received a comment from a reader outside of the trucking industry stating that my post sounded grim. I was asked if the industry is still a good place for young people seeking a career? The last thing I wanted to do was paint a poor picture of our industry to anyone.

But there is no denying the fact that we have an aging pool of drivers – I’m one of them – and attracting people to work in an industry where a 60 to 80 hour workweek is the norm isn’t easy under the best of circumstances.

So is our industry still a good place for young people seeking a career? As a seasoned driver, how would you answer that question? Freedom and independence go hand in hand with truck driving and that’s what attracted me to the industry and got into my blood, bringing me a great deal of happiness and joy.

That freedom and independence along with an above average salary offset the adversity and hardship that goes hand in hand with the long work hours and time away from friends and family.

But of late, many seasoned drivers are of the opinion that the freedom and independence they so highly value is threatened in the Brave New World of the present day. It is becoming increasingly difficult to keep a positive outlook.

Drivers need to see the technological changes that are taking place as an opportunity to gain independence rather than as a source of control over their lives. Think of the young drivers in their early twenties arriving on the scene.

They have grown up in a world of computers and smartphones linked to one another by the World Wide Web. Is it realistic to tell them to fill out a paper log so they can game the system in order to drive as many hours as possible to prosper financially?

I’m not without hope and honestly believe the choice of a career in the trucking industry is a good one.

New technologies and new rules require more training and more sharing of information. Perhaps as social media infects and spreads throughout the trucking industry we will start to see trucking Wiki’s develop.

This open source of information sharing could be a boon to the industry, providing drivers with a source to share their experience and skills.

Using this technology is second nature to young drivers – they have a lot to offer to industries such as ours that are in the process of moving from one age into the next. We could use a lot more young people right now, that’s for sure.

In the meantime I guess I just have to keep plugging away. Now that the snow is gone I’m using the time off that the hours-of-service rules give me each day to get a little exercise and beat that feeling of burnout.

I’m dealing with the rules by doing the best I can within the framework of those rules.

If I run out of time, well, then I run out of time. To be honest with you I look forward to the bunk time. As I move into my fifties, the long weeks take their toll on me – no doubt about it.

I find myself looking for freedom and independence by working smarter and not harder these days. And if the path to those values is lined with new ways of doing things, I’m willing to try them out.

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