First off I want to say, this article was written by Wilson Hines a real trucker. Check out the about the author at the end of this article.
The occupation of truck driving has a horrible impact on families. I have been around the trucking business since my father started trucking in 1984 to compensate for horrible farming debt. Since that time, I have seen family after family go through the pains of divorce or having a child that has become cold-hearted to one or both parents.
I am asked almost every week by a young person regarding a career in the trucking industry and without question, every single time I answer the same, “If you are single and 21 years of age, go for it, but remember at some time you will have a family that will need you. By the time you are 30 with a family, you will not be able to simply go find work in another field.” My comment rarely persuades an ambitious young man who has the dream of running through the night in an 18 wheeler through the big cities of America.
This argument, and any other argument, is paralyzed by the idea that he will be blowing through the great plains of the West faster than the storms that chase behind him. The argument is a non-starter to convince a young person to go find a “normal occupation.” While this is an honorable spirit to hold, it is also a damaging spirit to maintain. The process for acquiring a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) is very deceptive and is part of the problem that families face.
My neighbor recently graduated from Johnston Technical College’s CDL training program. The program also has a placement program that will take the graduates and place them with a transportation company after they have completed the course. The cost of this program is Fifteen Thousand dollars and is usually paid for by a combination of the company that hires the driver and the United States government in the form of performance based grants to the community college.
The recruiters with the CDL training program start the driver out on a path of deception by luring him in by telling him how many states he will see, the fantastic scenery, the historic sites, the national parks, and the skylines of glorious American cities. The problem is, they do not tell him how many miles he will be driving, and they do not tell him about the pressure he will be under to get the load where it has to be on time. He will not have the luxury of visiting any historic sites due to a lack of time.
Usually, a brand new driver will be driving with a “trainer” for his half of the combined 6,000 miles per week. That is the same distance as across the United States from Wilmington, NC, to Los Angeles, CA, two and one-half times every single week. At the end of the first eight weeks, a brand new driver has traveled 24,000 miles and has driven 12,000 of those miles. 24,000 miles is the circumference of the earth and he has just seen many more miles than an airline pilot sees at this stage in his career.
Just for comparison, an airline pilot flies at about 500 mph and a truck driver usually runs 65 mph. If the driver is lucky, after six months or even a year of running eight-week shifts, the trucking company will let the driver bring that eight-week shift down to four weeks before coming home to an emotionally starved family. That is four weeks away from the driver’s family. After at least two years of driving, for the same company and working for four weeks on and three days of home time for a total of 72 days at home in two years (Seven-Hundred and Thirty days), the driver can now look for another driving job that may get him better home time.
At this point, the driver’s family is distraught. There are disciplinary problems with the children, and quite frankly, most wives feel almost abandoned. What are the reasons for these feelings? Why can’t the family adjust to this type of work? The lifestyle of the over-the-road truck driver is anything from being normal, and the same could easily be said for the lifestyle of the over-the-road truck driver’s family. The spouse is now, in all essence, a single parent.
She is doing all the home finances, house work, yard work, cooking, and helping the kids make it through school. That is only the practical side, as it is clear that all those practical issues will have emotional ties with each and every one. This stress cannot be shared with a spouse. With all of this practical and emotional stress, there is also sexual stress. The needs of both parties are not being met, and this simply piles onto the stress of everything else. With almost no exception, the driver is home for three days and at the most five days. Women are emotional beings.
A woman will be the first to tell her husband that she needs an “adjustment period” in order to “reconnect” with her spouse; the man is “forward” in his advancement towards his wife and does not need a transition period. If a husband and wife are new to this, without counseling, they don’t understand what is happening to their marriage. All she knows is “all he thinks about is sex” and all he knows is “she doesn’t love me anymore.” These feelings tend to mount up, and the stress of all of the situations in their lives from the home finances to the laundry start to come to a head.
Too frequently, this all ends in divorce court. Hines 4The impact of the truck driver’s occupation on the children is just as horrible as with the marriage. I remember, as a 12 year old boy, my father going weekly to Florida with roofing shingles for construction projects. I specifically remember one instance of standing at the top of the staircase crying while my father said goodbye to me. I just started crying uncontrollably.
When I think of this time in my life, I still tear up. My father started crying, and he held me for a long time before he left. The thing that saved our relationship was he always made sure he said: “I love you.” To this day, we are not close because of trucking, but I have never second guessed his love for my mother, my sister or me. In fact, I knew the whole time it was his last resort to provide financially for his family. There are many families that haven’t been as fortunate.
I see a great need for the ATA (American Trucking Association), OOIDA (Owner Operators Independent Drivers Association), and the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) to cooperatively study these issues. It is an ATA issue because these large transportation companies are sucking the life out of these drivers. It is an OOIDA issue because this group is “for the little man” in our business.
It is an FMCSA issue because all of this relates to stress and fatigue; the issue must be calculated in its effect on driver performance. Counseling services must be offered for the driver in these situations. Better training at the entry-level on how to deal with these issues, as they arise, must be presented to the driver. This business isn’t all about physically driving the truck; it is much more complicate, and we must start recognizing these issues.
About the Author:
Wilson Hines is the voice behind “The Produce Trucker Radio Show.” After spending almost 18 years, in the trucking industry as a manager, owner and now co-owner of a small, family owned trucking business, Wilson is now concentrating on a bachelor’s degree in Foreign Languages with a minor in German from Campbell University. His ultimate goal is to have a “Masters of Theology” from Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas. Wilson is a published author with an internationally distributed coffee magazine and an online theological journal. You may contact Wilson via e-mail at Email Wilson
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