When you first get into trucking school, especially if you don't come from a trucking family, you may be under the mistaken notion that trucking is a job, a career or a profession. You may see it as a nine to five job if you are considering only doing short hauls, or you may be a bit more realistic and see it as a few days a week away from home. However, the vast majority of new drivers still see it as a job with set hours, time for the family, and a very understanding boss that will grant you days off and time off as you schedule and request.
While these trucking jobs do exist, they are few and far between. This is usually pretty clear after about the first week after talking with other drivers in the class that have worked in the industry or grew up with family members in the industry. At this time you have heard about the days on the road, thinking you are returning home only to be booked another load going the opposite direction, or having your days off cancelled because there was work to do. You may have also heard about having to work in different states to find loads or to travel where the oilfield, natural gas, construction or industrial employers needed truckers on a more regular basis.
You are beginning to realize that trucking is not a job or a career; it is a way of life. It is a 24/7 job where, in most cases, you have to be ready to take on a load, bobtail back to pick up a load or head out across the country when you just want a few nights in your own house with your family. Of course, there are those select jobs that allow you to do all that, but those are usually already taken by more experienced drivers with company seniority or those that are driving as owner-operators that do their own scheduling. Even this last group typically has to work when work is available since there will be days and weeks where business is slow and loads are few and far between.
This can be really rough on the trucker, especially if they have a spouse and children at home. It doesn't matter if you are Mom or Dad or what age your kids are, being always from them, as well as your spouse and the comforts of home, can be a hard reality of the life.
However, it is not just difficult for the person on the road behind the wheel. It is also difficult for the spouse that often feels like a single parent raising the kids on his or her own. Not only do they have to deal with the house, the kids and the day-to-day grind but they also only have your support only from a distance. They may not understand why you were supposed to be back home in Houston on Thursday but are calling to say you have to go to Montana and won't be back for another week. Promises get broken, feelings get hurt, and relationships often fall apart.
Communication Is Critical
Keeping in touch with your spouse or partner and your kids while on the road has never been easier than it is today. With cell phones, internet, portable Wi-Fi hotspots and text messaging and email you can stay in touch much more than even just a few years ago.
Skype, FaceTime and social media sites like Facebook allow you to stay in touch and up to date with your family and friends. This type of communication helps to make the distances feel shorter and the time spent apart less stressful. It is much more personal than just a phone call every now and then.
It is still important to make the most of your time at home to be with your spouse and family. If you kids have a special event at school or if it is your anniversary or another special date, talk to your dispatcher as far in advance as possible and see what can be arranged. Most of these people understand that parents need to be in their children's lives and spouses and partners need to spend time together, so just be open and let them know why you are making the request for time off or time not on call.
It is also important to recognize the spouse that is staying at home for their role in the family. It is easy to come home and just think about getting in some rest and relaxation, but to your spouse it may seem like you don't care or aren't interested in doing things that they like. Going on a date night or spending the day with the kids to give them some free time is a great way to show them how much you appreciate all they do.
Talking with your spouse, partner or children about the trucking lifestyle and your thoughts about them while you are away helps clear up any confusion or misunderstanding. It will also give them a better idea of what you experience in your daily driving routine and how much you miss them when you out on the road.