Truck driving is more than a job; it’s a lifestyle! There are pros and cons to the lifestyle, and there are risks just like with anything else. One of the risks of a truck driving job is overworking and not getting enough rest or vacation time. This can lead to burnout, which is defined as mental or physical collapse by overwork or stress. Driving a truck for a living has some unique stressors associated with it. Being on the road and away from home can take a toll on the body, and dealing with demands from different people can stress the mind. Here’s what you need to know for avoiding burnout as a truck driver.
What leads to driver burnout?
The real question is what doesn’t lead to truck driver burnout! Often there is pressure by carriers for drivers to remain on the road longer. Drivers are usually payed by the mile and they know that the more they drive, the more they earn. A shortage of drivers in the industry means that carriers will count on a smaller and smaller pool of drivers to haul freight across the country. Even if your carrier isn’t pressuring you to take more runs, the “normal” truck driver hours can still be exhausting. Truck drivers don’t have a typical 9 am-5 pm, forty-hour work week, and are working much more than the average American worker.
OTR drivers may have it toughest since they spend days or weeks on the road. Being away from home and family for that long is a source of stress and exhaustion. Most drivers will try to keep the job from becoming tiring by keeping a strong set of hobbies and interests.
Even if you’re finding ways to relax, eat well, and get plenty of sleep, no one is immune from the effects of stress.
Finally, drivers deal with a whole host of people who can often be difficult. Working with carriers, dispatchers, shippers, and receivers can be overwhelming.
Effects of burnout
At this point, you may be saying to yourself that burnout can happen to anyone and it’s not a big deal. The truth is the effects of burnout are damaging to yourself and those around you! Not dealing with burnout effectively can lead your mental and physical health to suffer, your relationships to suffer, and can put your job at risk as well. Think about it- who is more likely to slack off on the job, be tired while driving, or be disrespectful to colleagues- a well adjusted driver or a driver suffering from burnout? Drivers with burnout will suffer from irritability and frustration. This leads to less tolerance towards other drivers on the road and makes accidents more likely. Other effects of burnout are insomnia, sleep apnea, or other sleep disorders. At the end of the day this means more tired truck drivers on the road, and a higher risk of accidents.
The truth is that burnout is directly linked to your safety and the safety of other drivers on the road.
If drivers push themselves beyond their limits, they are more likely to suffer from poor health. Burnout can lead to lack of exercise and unhealthy diet choices. Obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a host of other health effects are directly related to burnout. Drivers will not find time to exercise or eat well, which makes them feel more unmotivated to do so, and the vicious cycle continues. Drivers can also have severe mood effects, like apathy or depression.
While they once loved life on the open road, they may grow to dislike truck driving and become resentful of the job and the lifestyle.
If your mental health suffers, it will also affect those around you, including your loved ones and other truck drivers.
The good news is that avoiding burnout is not impossible. Burnout can be managed, and stress can be dealt with in healthy ways. While stress isn’t unavoidable, you can learn better strategies to manage and cope with stress and avoid burnout.
A regular sleep schedule is probably the number one thing you can do to avoid burnout and remain healthy. While a truck driver’s schedule is often unpredictable, having some control over your sleep cycle will help regulate the body regardless of other schedule changes. Once the body gets used to sleeping the same time and waking the same time, it can reduce the effects of stress. Ideally, you’d have regularly scheduled runs with a more predictable schedule. While that’s a goal you can strive towards in the long-run, maintaining the same sleep routine will improve mental and physical health and avoid burnout.
Just like your truck needs proper fuel, your body will collapse if it is not getting the right fuel.
Beyond sleeping well, maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise is what fuels your body the right way. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be boring or expensive. Many drivers cook in their cab or find cheaper and healthier options of which restaurants to visit. Keeping a handful of healthy snacks in the cab is also helpful. Exercising as a truck driver isn’t impossible either. The secret is to do smaller sessions of exercise but keep them more regular and consistent.
Finding time to take breaks from the job will help you avoid burnout. We don’t mean the sort of “downtime” where you’re technically still on the job! Downtime between loads or while waiting at the shipper or receiver doesn’t really count since you have no idea how soon you’ll be working again. Use the mandated rest time allows you to know exactly how much time you have before driving again. Then you can decide how to best use the time. Don’t skip vacations or PTO days because you think you can’t afford them.
The truth is truck driver can’t afford NOT to take vacations.
Aside from getting the chance to spend quality time with family, it will also give you the chance to rest away from trucking and recharge before returning to life on the road.
As you can see, avoiding burnout isn’t impossible for truck drivers. Remember the toll that burnout can take on yourself and others, and use these helpful tips to remain healthy and stress-free.
The Ultimate Guide for Truck Drivers to Maintain 3 Healthy Habits Over the Road
Download the complete guide for tips to easily maintain healthy habits over the road.