For today’s truck driver to enjoy a prosperous and lengthy career hauling freight, it’s essential to be prepared to negotiate the effects of stress. That’s right, truck driver stress is a real thing and a common reason for burnout.
Although the truck driver lifestyle can offer tremendous freedom, a good salary, benefits, incentives, and perhaps the best job security the economy has to offer, the physical and emotional demands can take their toll. When professional CDL holders are unprepared, truck driver health issues can become problematic. We hope these insights and stress management techniques help support a fruitful career in the trucking industry.
PSYCHOLOGICAL CAUSES OF TRUCK DRIVER STRESS
A 2018 article posted by Transport Topics leans on a research study to puts the leading causes of truck driver stress into everyday terms. The study reportedly interviewed 61 truckers and grouped their stress-related responses into qualitative data. These were the top three reasons truckers said they suffered the effects of stress.
- Loneliness: According to the research study, truckers reported isolation and loneliness as a leading reason for emotional stress. It’s no secret that the majority of professional drivers work alone.
- Lack of Respect: Many truckers feel underappreciated on a number of fronts. Aggressive and disrespectful car drivers are the primary cause of animosity. Unprofessional customers, supervisors, and other industry insiders exacerbate those feelings. Truck drivers are the lifeblood of the country who keep materials and goods flowing to every community. Many feel they are not afforded the respect they deserve for their rigorous labor.
- Excessive Government Regulations: CDL holders struggle with the impact of government overregulation. Weigh stations, limits on work hours, and other micromanagement causes considerable anxiety. The recent levying of tolls specifically against truckers rightfully makes them feel singled out.
Beyond the emotional factors that increase truck driver stress, the lifestyle also has physical aspects that can lead to truck driver health issues if unchecked.
PHYSICAL CAUSES OF TRUCK DRIVER STRESS
Although the days of truck drivers requiring brute force to turn steering wheels and unload freight are a thing of the past, certain physical aspects of the job remain unchanged. The sedentary nature of operating a big rig for several hours appears to limit even light cardio to some degree. These are top truck driver health issues that can be avoided with appropriate management.
- Obesity: Truckers too often engage in unhealthy, high-calorie diets.
- High Blood Pressure: Weight gain, lack of exercise, and habits such as smoking cigarettes tend to negatively impact truckers’ blood pressure, and ultimately their cardiovascular health.
- Musculoskeletal Injuries: Poorly designed seats that do not provide adequate ergonomics can put undue stress on the back, neck, and hips, among others. It’s also not uncommon for drivers to sit too low and place excess strain on their shoulders leading to arthritis.
What may be particularly concerning about physical truck driver health issues is that they tend to be unforced errors. The physical conditions that diminish health and unnecessarily increase stress can be corrected. The psychological aspects, however, may require a stress management plan that delivers peace of mind.
HOW TO COMBAT EMOTIONAL, PHYSICAL TRUCK DRIVER STRESS
Cleary, truck drivers experience unique types of physical and emotional stress related to the occupation. It would be unfortunate to waste an opportunity for a long-term career that continues to show wage growth and excellent employment security. It’s no secret that employers are competing for qualified CDL holders by increasing salaries, offering health care benefits, and even signing bonuses. By utilizing common stress management techniques, truckers can reduce stress, anxiety, and maintain vibrant health while on the road.
MAINTAIN A HEALTHY DIET
Fast food restaurants and truck stop foods tend to be convenient and reasonably good tasting. But their high calorie, high cholesterol content can cause weight gain and poor cardiovascular health. A supermarket can be an excellent detour to get around an unhealthy diet. Carry vegetables, pre-cooked rotisserie chickens, fruits and other healthy options. If your rig doesn’t have a mini-refrigerator, Yeti and other coolers can keep food cold for up to a week.
GET A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP
You might be surprised at the difference a full eight hours or longer can make. Outfit your compartment with quality products that will deliver a restful sleep. And, don’t hesitate to get a room with a top-flight mattress if you begin to feel the effects of the road.
STAY IN TOUCH
Even regular phone calls and texting can reduce feelings of isolation and make drivers feel emotionally connected. Take time during breaks to send a quick message and say goodnight to loved ones whenever possible.
USE ERGONOMIC TECHNIQUES
Be certain you are seated in a healthy posture when operating the truck. If necessary, utilize back and neck support products to reduce undue tension on critical areas of your body.
BE VIGILANT ABOUT EXERCISE
Truck drivers actually have the time to get in enough quality exercise to remain fit. The issue tends to be committing to a routine.
Truckers are required to take a full lunch break each day. There’s no reason not to walk at least one mile during this break. Many rest areas and truck stops have the space and even walking paths to get in some cardio. The same holds true off non-drivable hours. You may feel awkward doing some calisthenics outdoors to start the day. However, your peers are likely to consider you a smart health leader.
STRESS MANAGEMENT EQUIPMENT
There are numerous gadgets that can assist you in your quest for a low-stress trucking occupation. Simple items such as stress balls that you squeeze are easy enough to bring along. They also make your hands stronger. Setting up a relaxing playlist on a device that can tap into your console can go a long way to setting a peaceful driving mood.
In Zen meditation, people are taught to relax their minds and bodies by counting breaths. People suffering anxiety also use deep breaths to relax. It seems obvious that deep breathing techniques are directly linked to reduced stress and anxiety. Truckers may be wise to utilize deep breathing as an elixir for work-related stress.
This trending method of stress management has been touted across industries. Even Superbowl winning Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll advocates for mindfulness techniques in pro football.
This approach to well-being involves being in touch with your true emotions, immediate experience, and how your body feels. It can provide heightened awareness about your physical and psychological needs. Knowing is the first step to managing the negative aspects of stress in the truck-driving industry.