Life on the road can be both exciting while, at the same time, terribly lonely and frustrating. Living a solitary life on the road for almost every day and sleeping in a rig for many nights on end isn’t for everyone. The lifestyle is one that has many financial and personal rewards, but can also put a driver at risk for depression, fatigue, boredom, and for some, substance abuse. Let’s take a closer look at the trucking lifestyle and how it can be both a blessing and a curse.
Being a commercial truck or bus driver is not just a matter of driving from point A to point B. It can put a real strain on family life and friendships. The weeks straight of living on the road, while interesting for some to visit so many different parts of our country, can become tiresome for others. Not being able to be an active part of a spouse or child’s life can really be enough to drive some into unhealthy behaviors.
Most office workers set off for their job in the early morning hours, spend about 8 hours doing the work that builds their career and helps their business, and then return home to a house/apartment and potentially a family.
For truckers or long-distance bus drivers, life is a bit different. The life that we live is really what you make of it. Most truckers make a habit of getting an early start which means well before rush hour traffic has started, if at all possible. Before heading out, pre-trip inspections occur and usually a breakfast to fuel up for the ride. Then it is a long day of driving in conditions that could include busy city traffic or long stretches of quiet interstates. The weather could be beautiful and sunny or harsh with winds or snow/rain. Driving could last most of a day only to be finished when the sun goes down and a mandatory driving break and sleep is necessary.
Truckers are expected to work up to 70 hours a week for up to eight days at a stretch. Then a mandated break at the 70-hour mark means much-needed downtime. Unfortunately, some truckers then take on overtime or extra shifts to make extra cash. Many times the demands of the job put drivers on the road close to 300 days per year. For some, this is a dream job of getting to be on your own, explore new areas, and be alone with your thoughts. For others, the flexibility and independence are worth exploring.
Due to the long hours, occasional harsh driving conditions, and separation from family and friends, this career can have its risks.
A study of truckers and their working conditions around the world found that the “overall use of mind-altering substances was high,” typically due to the long hours and desolate nature of the job. Drugs of choice tended to be amphetamines and cocaine, which stimulate drivers into staying awake for unnaturally long periods of time. However, the side effects of their consumption include agitation, hallucinations, hypertension, and dependence, with impaired driving and death likely occurring as well.” (Source: American Addiction Centers)
The reality of the road can have adverse effects on a driver’s emotional outlook and physical wellbeing as well. Depression and loneliness, along with easy access to illegal substances and sex workers at the more than 5,000 truck stops across America, can be a tough reality to avoid. A recent study by Mother Jones reports that many of the truck stops are bases of sex work and drug trafficking for weary drivers. The temptation may be too much.
This lifestyle is not all negative. There are many perks that come with a truck driver's schedule, not the least of which is a unique view of the country, as well as camaraderie among your peers. You'll mostly get to drive modern trucks with comfortable, ergonomically designed seats to help you stay alert and focused. Determining your level of independence is also a plus as you begin to advance in the trucking industry.