There is no doubt that there is a lot of pressure when truck drivers are on the road. The pressure to meet tight deadlines, stay alert and stay safe on the road. From the outside, it may look like it is an easy job that allows a driver to have freedom on the road while making money but it is not always the case. Truck drivers need a break, it is good for their mental health.
Mental health is a major concern for trucker drivers that is not always talked about enough. Long hours alone on the road, without a lot of physical movement or conversation can take a toll on a driver’s mental health. Burnout, which is described as energy depletion or exhaustion with increased feelings of negativism or loneliness and reduced professional efficacy, has a higher chance of affecting drivers and often goes unnoticed or is ignored. There are a number of steps that can be taken to avoid burnout, including making sure drivers get home on a regular basis. Another important step, is for the driver to pay attention to their thoughts and feelings as well as the company checking in with drivers regularly to see if they are managing on the road.
Everyday drivers are dealing with issues beyond their control such as road construction, weather, the unpredictability of other drivers on the road and lack of sleep due to long days. There is a lot of stress on the road and with lack of sleep it is harder to deal with stress in a healthy way. When drivers are on the road they should consider taking actions that they can control to support their mental and physical well-being:
• Create a driving schedule that includes short breaks in order to get fresh air and physical movement • Plan ahead with snacks/meals that will fuel your body and mind and help to support your mental and physical health • Avoid using drugs and alcohol to deal with stress • Use technology to connect with family and/or mental health professionals
With all the stress truck driving brings, it is important to get a break. A real break, not just the hours that are required for a reset that are often spent in the truck. That is not a real break. Plan your vacation days far in advance so that you, your family and your company are prepared for it. It will give you something to look forward to while you are on the road. Studies show that at least a 5-day break is critical to supporting mental health, increasing productivity and avoiding burnout.
It is no secret that the trucking industry is male dominated, especially when it comes to driving a truck. It is rare to see a woman driving a truck out on the road but they are out there. In Canada and the United States, the percentage of professional women truck drivers is between 3.5% and 7.8%. Keep in mind, there are millions of professional truck drivers between these two countries.
If you are considering a career as a truck driver, there are many advantages flexibility, the opportunity to travel and good compensation. The industry, as a whole, is starting to evolve but there is still a long way to go. Women have to think more about safety out on the road but it doesn’t make the job impossible.
So, what can you do out on the road to help keep yourself safe? We have gathered some tips from women drivers out on the road:
Be aware of your surroundings and be alert
Pick a rest/truck stop that is well lit with lots of trucks and people around
If you walk around the truck stop alone at night, make sure you have something in your hand to protect yourself in the unlikely event you get attacked
Check-in frequently with a family member or friend and let them know where you are and when you will check in again
Avoid leaving your truck at night and sleep with your windows covered
Lock your doors at all time when you are inside, as well as, secure them with the seatbelt in your truck
Both Canada and the United States have federal trucking organizations which are specifically for women. If you are thinking about truck driving, or if you are already doing it, then those organizations could be a great resource. The Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada is a non-profit, membership-based organization focused on empowering women in the industry, helping to find employment and connect mentors to inexperienced drivers. In the United States, there is a non-profit organization called Women in Trucking similar to Canada’s organization, they have a mission to encourage employment, promote women in the industry and minimize obstacles that women face in the trucking industry. No matter where you are located, a great first step would be to take advantage of these organizations and find out how they can help you.
Although you do not need a degree to become a truck driver, you will need to study and successfully pass your commercial drivers license (CDL). This should not cost tens of thousands of dollars to study and challenge. There are many schools that can help you for between $3000-$8000. Be sure to do your research and make sure it is a reputable education program.
Once you successfully complete your CDL test, choose the right freight carrier. There are a few carriers out there that are proactive with women’s concerns in the trucking industry and take care to make sure you have a positive experience. Do your research speak to other female counterparts in the industry to find out which carriers that might be.
At the end of the day, do your research before you decide to take the journey of becoming a professional truck driver as a woman. There are many advantages and disadvantages but that is no different than any other career.