For many truckers it is difficult to work on the road and also have time to spend with your kids. One option that may be worthy of consideration is to take the kids on a shorter road trip with you so you can spend time together and see a bit of the country.
Most kids are naturally very interested in what Mommy or Daddy do for a living and riding along on a road trip may be the highlight of their summer or school holiday long weekend. Of course, you do have to keep several things in mind when deciding if this is the right type of activity for both you and your kids.
The following points can be used to help you determine first if this is a good option and then what you need to consider for the kids safety, comfort and contentment on the journey.
1. How young is too young?
This is really a practical consideration that you need to think through, with your spouse or partner, before even talking to the kids. General the kids need to be old enough to sit for several hours at a time without becoming really antsy and irritated. They should also be old enough to sit securely in the truck seat with the safety belt securely in place. For younger children a booster seat may be required to ensure that they are safely and properly in the vehicle.
Children in their elementary school years will enjoy shorter travels while those that are middle and high school are often game for longer trips. Usually children under school age will be comfortable in the truck if the other parent, or another adult they trust, is around to keep them entertained and occupied.
2. What does my spouse or partner think?
It is really important that both parents are on board with this decision. This is true for both married or living together parents as well as those that are separated or divorced. If one parent is not in agreement it may be important to spend time talking about the issue and sharing ideas rather than to simply take the child and create friction or future problems in the relationship.
3. What do my kids want?
While Mom and/or Dad may think a summer on the road traveling to new places is a great idea, kids may have a completely different preference and agenda. This becomes more problematic as the kids get older and want to spend their summer with friends and doing activities in their home community.
It is important to find out from your child if he or she is interested in coming with you. This question should be posed without trying to guilt the child into saying they want to go. Often leaving the door open by saying, "If you want to come with me in the truck, let me know and we will organize a trip you will enjoy" is a much better option than simply assuming the child will want to go.
4. What is company policy?
If you are an owner-operator you can set your own policy regarding kids riding along. However, if you work for a company it is a good idea to verify with a manager that the kids can ride in the truck. If there is not a written policy in place you may want to ask for written consent for the child to travel in the company truck. This will prevent any misunderstanding or miscommunication and will also support your actions if someone ever questions that the children were along.
5. How long of a trip for the first time?
As a parent you know your child better than anyone else. Generally the younger the child the shorter the first trip should be to ensure that if there is a problem or if the child is not enjoying the trip it isn't a lengthy time they are away from home. Some kids will travel happily for days with Mom or Dad while others may become bored in the first few hours on the road. Remember, even though you are spending your time with your kids you are still at work and have schedules to follow and loads to pick up and deliver.
Once you have determined that the trip is on, you then have some advanced work to do. To make the first trip a success for both the parent and the child be sure to consider the following:
• Talk to the child about the rules for riding in the truck. This could include things like wearing the seatbelt at all times, remaining in the cab when the truck is at the dock or when picking up or dropping of a load, or getting assistance in getting in and out of the truck for younger kids.
• Talk about the fact that Mom or Dad is at work and, while there will be times to look around and see the sights, during the days or nights you will be driving and your attention will have to be on the road.
• Take some games, electronic devices, books or activities that the child can do in the truck to minimize the risk of boredom and irritability.
• Schedule your route to make frequent stops where the child can get out and run, spend some time out of the truck and interact with you when you aren't focused on the road.
• Try to plan the route to stop in areas of interest to a child. This could include a park, a museum, an attraction or something of interest to the child.
• Check to make sure all places you have to enter with your truck allow children in the vehicle. Liability issues have led many companies to have very strict policies about who can even be in the cab let alone outside of the vehicle on their premises.
• Have a contingency plan where the other parent can come and meet you should the child become bored, ill or simply not want to travel with you.
Taking kids on the road can be a wonderful experience for all involved. However, you do need to plan in advance and take into considerations several factors to make this a memorable time for your child.