When first becoming a truck driver, many new drivers don’t realise they are, in fact, making a lifestyle choice. They are choosing to forego many of the things the general population regard as being part of a normal life. They are also choosing to survive on a bad diet as well as a rest and fatigue regime which is not likely to be good for their health.
This may not be the case for all truck drivers, but the decision to follow the dollar in trucking will often lead to the driver living a lifestyle which is deleterious to their health, their social life and, often, their relationships.
The kind of conditions many truck drivers work under, as being the norm, would be regarded as unacceptable in any industry which tried to start up today. Many years of custom and practice have cemented a largely unhealthy working environment as a normal way to work.
Of course, this view is probably a bit of an exaggeration for many drivers, who are treated well by their employers with working conditions which are similar to those normal in other industries. However, there are some realities which are the same for everyone.
There is minimal access to good quality healthy food for many truck drivers. The service stations and road houses on our major highways have some food options, but, in the main, fried food with little fresh vegetables is the norm, and definitely the cheaper option.
There may be outlets which do sell good food on routes, but, invariably there is no way a truck can park nearby to enable the driver to eat there. Many outlets deliberately set themselves up so truck drivers will not have access. Over the years, truckies themselves have made themselves unattractive as potential customers, a few bad apples spoiling it for the rest.
The work is far from a nine to five type job. Often, when a driver starts their shift, they will have no idea when they will finish. The task may have to be done and it may go to plan, but there are so many issues which can cause delays. Traffic is unpredictable, loading and unloading is always a bit of a lottery, even if a loading slot has been booked.
It gets even more complicated for interstate drivers. A week may involve starting on day shift, going into a series of night shifts or any combination of the above. The driver has to grab rest when the opportunity arises and will often have to take this rest in an inappropriate situation.
Parking spaces are limited for most trucks. Parking spaces where the driver can get an undisturbed sleep are very limited. Parking spaces where they can sleep and which are close to facilities are even more limited. A place to park a truck, get some sleep, get a shower and a good meal do exist but are few and far between.
These issues are just one aspect of the truck driver’s life which make their lifestyle problematic and very different from the experience of most of the population when they go to work. The trucking industry needs to remember just what we are expecting our drivers to put up with in return for a job in this industry.
Paying drivers well may be a form of compensation for the kinds of conditions they have to live with. It would also help if the trucking industry acknowledged it is asking a lot of its drivers and accepted some aspects of the job make for a less than ideal lifestyle for people working in the industry.