The Balance Beam: Truck Driving and Family Life
If you’re thinking about becoming a truck driver, you may wonder how to balance truck driving and family life. While being a truck driver with a family is very rewarding, it’s not without challenges. Read on to learn about how drivers manage truck driving and family life.
Challenges of Balancing Truck Driving and Family Life
Truck driving while maintaining a family is not an easy thing to navigate. Many people’s jobs have a negligible commute and allow them to return home at the end of every work day. Driving a truck is a job that requires long hours behind the wheel and days or weeks on the road before returning home. This can be stressful for drivers and their families, and a few hurdles may present themselves to those looking to balance truck driving and family life.
Uncertainty of Schedule
When a driver begins a new trip, there may not always be a direct route back home. In most cases, drivers may need to make several trips in multiple directions before they find themselves headed in the direction of home. Occasionally, a driver may be able to set a schedule for himself that allows for a simplified route and a clear trip back. Even this comes with a fair amount of uncertainty. Shipments can be canceled or delayed at any time for a number of reasons, which may leave a driver having to scramble to find a replacement shipment that will point him in his desired driving direction.
Some elements of being on the road, such as inclement weather, accidents, construction, and heavy traffic can contribute to the overall uncertainty of a truck driving schedule. The United States is a large country without consistent weather conditions. A driver may start in the northeast, where there’s a snowstorm, and end in the southwest, where it’s blazing hot. There’s no way to regularly predict the weather as drivers make the trip from state to state, and poor conditions may slow down a trip that would otherwise be relatively smooth sailing. Rainstorms, construction that restricts the flow of traffic, and ice can contribute to a slowed trip that keeps drivers from accurately predicting when they’ll be home.
While truck drivers may experience a number of mental health concerns, loneliness tops the list. Nearly a third of drivers say that being alone all day is a significant issue that affects their mental health. Many drivers report that they miss their families immensely when they are driving, which leads to emotional distress and greater feelings of isolation.
Drivers are frequently away from home for weeks at a time, which new drivers may not consider. Those with regular 9-5 jobs who make the transition from behind the desk to behind the wheel may take their regulated hours and short commutes for granted; they may be hit especially hard by the isolation of a truck cab.
While drivers frequently make friends on the road, this is not the same as being home with family and loved ones. Most people want to connect with others and while friends are important, drivers may feel that it is difficult to create long-lasting bonds with others when they’re constantly moving in opposite directions. This lack of attachment only contributes to loneliness on the road.
Drivers aren’t the only ones who are negatively affected by life on the road. Their partners can feel equally lonely and stressed by having a family member who is constantly away. The stress on both sides of the wheel can lead to arguments and breakdowns in communications when the driver does make it back home at the end of a number of trips.
These problems may compound if the driver has children. Kids naturally want to be around their parents and can be disappointed and angry when one parent is frequently absent or keeps having their return delayed. Younger children may have a hard time understanding why a parent isn’t around and may feel neglected. This can lead to a breakdown in the relationship between the child and the truck driving parent, where the child favors the parent who stayed home.
Tips to Balance Truck Driving and Family Life
While there are many issues that can put a strain on the family life of a driver, there are also ways to work around these hurdles. Being on the road and away from family is certainly stressful, but it is up to the individual to focus on the positive aspects of the job, and doing their part to connect with their family. Here are a few things that drivers can do to balance truck driving and family life in a positive way.
Focus on Scheduling
Drivers can’t always rely on a direct route home, but they can be proactive about finding the right routes and loads to increase the chances of a more timely return. Drivers who want to prioritize time at home will try to work with shippers who have consistent, repeat work that consistently takes them to and from the same destination, allowing them to be home more frequently. There will always be problems and delays, but if a driver is constantly working the same route, these problems may be reduced or minimized.
Drivers and their families should have honest conversations about the realities of truck driving and family life. When the partner at home knows the driver’s schedule and route, it’s easier for them to plan around the absence. Similarly, drivers should be in constant contact with their family at home while they’re on the road. Video calls have become commonplace and allow families to see each other and feel more connected, even though they’re hundreds of miles apart. Families should try to create a schedule for talking to each other every day, so that children and spouses can stay connected to the driver, and so the driver can feel less isolated.
Drivers and their families also need to communicate about their individual needs. If the family at home needs to talk to the driver more than once a day, that should not be kept quiet. If the driver needs a few hours to unwind upon arriving home from a few days on the roads, that needs to be communicated as well. This type of communication is just as important as staying in touch while on the road, so that family bonds do not become strained while at home.
Learn to Balance Truck Driving and Family Life
Truck drivers who can balance truck driving and family life find that trucking is a lucrative and rewarding career. If this industry appeals to you, you can learn to be a trucker at Truck Driver Institute. You can earn your Commercial Driver’s License in as little as three weeks. We also provide competitive tuition rates and consistent job placement, which will help you schedule your drives with your family.