People are often curious about what it is like for long haul truck drivers, especially those who are thinking about getting into the industry. Many reality and documentary TV shows, such as Ice Road Truckers and American Trucker, have glamorized the profession and brought driving a lot of attention. But do these shows accurately reflect life on the road?
The answer is not always. The goal of television is to create excitement and build tension, but for many new drivers, the most striking thing about the job is the monotony. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to overcome this, and for the right type of person, trucking can be a rewarding and fulfilling career.
Today’s post will look at the daily routine of professional truck drivers and give people who are interested in exploring life as an OTR (Over The Road) driver a better idea of what to expect. While there will always be a lot of solitude and time spent behind the wheel, there are also a lot of positives involved as well.
How much of a truck driver’s time is spent driving?
It goes without saying that truck driving is not like a regular 9 to 5 job. Drivers spend the vast majority of their working time behind the wheel of their truck, and you should expect long days (and maybe even nights) as you try to reach your destination as fast as reasonably possible. But how long are we talking about here?
The first thing you need to be aware of is that industry regulations (as well as individual company regulations) will dictate how much time you can spend driving in a given week. The legal limit for long haul truckers involves working a maximum of 14 hours in a day.
Of those 14 hours, only 11 hours can be spent actually driving. In addition, after a 14-hour work period, a driver must be off duty for 10 consecutive hours. You’ll be required to have an electronic log in your rig that tracks your hours on the road and prevents drivers from skirting around the regulations.
This means that drivers will need to carefully track their journey ahead of time to avoid hitting the 11-hour driving limit in the middle of nowhere, far from a rest stop or other good stopping point. As for the other 3 hours of your work period that can’t be spent driving, there is a mandated 30-minute break that is included, which must be used in such a way as to ensure no more than 8 hours are spent consecutively on the road.
There are some exceptions to the 11-hour rule. For instance, if a driver encounters an accident or severe weather that forces slower speeds for a period of time, it’s allowable to drive extra time to make up the lost miles.
Finally, there might also be a weekly limit to a driver’s total hours. Typically, a driver can’t be on duty for more than 60 hours in a week, or more than 70 hours in 8 days. Once you reach the 60 or 70-hour limit, you are required to have 34 consecutive hours off duty before you resume driving. However, you are allowed to do other non-driving tasks during this rest period, such as loading or unloading, paper work, or repairs.
In total, drivers may end up spending 300 days out of the year on the road. For OTR drivers, this can mean a lot of time spent away from home, while local truckers will typically get to go home every night.
What is it like living out of a truck?
Another aspect of life as a truck driver is getting used to living out of your truck. Depending on your individual preferences, this could literally mean that your truck becomes your full time home, but for the majority of drivers, this is just a figure of speech to describe the long periods of your schedule when you aren’t at your actual home.
In order to save both time and money, truckers will rarely if ever stay overnight in a hotel room. Instead, they keep a bed in the cab of their vehicle. This can seem very cramped at first, as an average cab will provide about 8 by 10 feet of space. It’s important to make the most out of this space, and being neat and organized definitely makes life easier.
Drivers have the freedom to furnish their cabs however they like, and typical options include shelving, microwaves, TVs, refrigerators, clothing racks, and mattresses. While in the past, communication might be limited to payphones and CBs, today it’s possible to have all sorts of mobile devices, including phones, tablets, laptops, and even gaming systems.
Some drivers will go a step further and move completely into their truck, forgoing a home base. While you’ll need some sort of address to register for your license and receive mail, there’s no reason you can’t spend 365 days a year sleeping in your truck if that’s what you desire. Drivers can save a lot of money this way, though normally it will only be a temporary decision, for a year or two at most.
The biggest challenge for newer drivers is getting used to the solitude. Long haul truckers might go long periods of time without any meaningful contact with other people, outside of rest areas and loading docks. Your ability to adapt and deal with the possible loneliness will all depend on the type of personality you have. No matter what, it will certainly take some getting used to.
What are the dangers of life on the road?
While truck driving is generally quite safe, there are certainly some dangers to be aware of. First of all, the biggest danger is having an accident on the road. The best way to protect against accidents is to avoid driving while overly fatigued, staying under the speed limit, and not allowing yourself to become distracted while driving. In fact, driver fatigue and distraction are two of the leading causes of accidents, both for professional and non-professional drivers.
Other dangers may not be as obvious. New and old drivers alike need to pay special heed to getting enough exercise. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other problems associated with a lack of exercise and poor eating habits plague many drivers. Driving long hours can also lead to repetitive stress injuries that get worse over time and need to be treated before they become chronic.
Making matters worse, drivers may not always have decent benefits, and even those that do find it difficult to find the time to visit a doctor, even when they are feeling sick. Pressure to stay on the road and make every deadline can cause drivers to ignore their personal health.
Finally, maintaining mental health is also an issue that needs to be addressed. Because of the long hours of solitude, lack of regular social interaction, and difficulties maintaining a home life or social life, drivers can often find their mental well being compromised. Don’t be afraid to seek help and even professional counseling if you think the circumstances call for it.
Saint John Capital Understands Life On The Open Road
With nearly 25 years of experience in the industry, Saint John Capital has a proven history of supporting truck drivers make a good living on America’s highways. We prioritize building mutually beneficial relationships with drivers and fleet operators, making it possible for them to grow their business. Because we work exclusively in the trucking industry, we have extensive knowledge of the daily challenges faced by drivers of all stripes. Our customized services make it possible for drivers like you to meet your financial goals.
Even if you are an independent driver, we encourage everyone in the industry to think of themselves as a business. And every business has to find value everywhere it can. Saint John Capital offers a full range of factoring options, fleet card programs, and complimentary services that make big savings possible in terms of both time and money.
Contact us today to learn more about how Saint John Capital can support your career as a trucker.