Truck driver stress is a real problem. A 2019 survey by CareerCast rated the trucking profession as one of the highest stress jobs in America. We were kind of surprised to see that the survey ranked truck driving as more stressful than professions in masonry, welding and food service.
Ask any truck driver how stressful their job is, and they will likely say that it ‘depends on the day’. There are so many variables that can turn a standard pick-up or drayage drop off into a delay, and truckers have to be quick on their feet to plan routes, and take steps to (safely) avoid these delays. And that can definitely get stressful.
What can truckers do to reduce their stress, on those days? We’d like to share five great suggestions that have been proven to help people reduce stress naturally.
1. Listen to Podcasts Instead of Music in Your Cab
Some studies have suggested that podcasts keep you more alert, than listening to movies when you are driving a commercial truck and clocking some serious miles. Music has a sedating effect when you are listening to it for a long period of time; and that can be really dangerous for CDL drivers.
A podcast helps reduce your stress levels in many ways. First, you can hear a conversational voice (or more than one in an interview) and that helps soften some of the isolation that many truckers report. You may not be part of the conversation, but hearing two or more people talking can make you feel like you are taking a break to be social. Like you have someone to talk to, even if you are driving alone, and that helps reduce stress levels by improving your mood.
Check out our article for 10 great trucking podcast picks from our team at Canal Cartage.
2. Use a Cooling Towel
This is a tried and true fix for those times when you are feeling the heat, either from the weather or during a really long delay when you are stuck in traffic, or in pick-up queue in Port Houston. A cooling towel can be stored in your refrigerator or ice box to chill, and then removed when needed. Simply wipe your face and neck to feel refreshed, and to lower your stress levels. Both the moisture and the cooler temperature are proven methods for truckers.
3. Truck Drivers Should Make the Most of Their Downtime
Truckers spend a lot of time on the road, so it’s not surprising that when they are at home and they have a few days off, that they may tackle things around the house that they haven’t be able to get to. Packing your schedule to ‘catch up’ on days that you are meant to be resting and recharging (per HOS regulations) is a surefire way to ramp up your stress levels.
Enjoy your time off. Do something fun that you love outdoors, so that your body can enjoy a break from the sedentary positioning that is part of your job as a truck driver. During your off-hours, spend time with family, socialize, and above all, get lots of rest. If your days off are as hectic as your working days as an owner-operator, you put yourself at risk for higher stress levels and health problems.
4. Know Your Route and Plan Your Rest Stops in Advance
Electronic logging devices (ELDs) and new hours of service (HOS) regulations for the trucking industry make rest breaks mandatory for driver and road safety. In some ways, truckers have felt that the ELDs and HOS regulations actually increase stress, because deliveries and pick-ups can be impacted by many factors (such as driver delays at Port) that they cannot control. They may not need a rest-break when they have been sitting for three hours waiting for a container, but nonetheless they must log their rest breaks in compliance with Federal laws.
Knowing your route and setting yourself a schedule for rest breaks is a good thing. You’ll set a structure to your day that keeps your delivery on time, but also provides that necessary rest opportunities truckers need to stay alert.
If you are heading into an area that you are not familiar with, before you start your route, do some research on the best truck stops and rest areas that work with your schedule, and HOS requirements. This will help reduce the frustration of looking for an appropriate rest stop, which can be stressful, particularly if you are behind schedule due to unforeseen delays.
5. Breathe Deeply When You Feel Stressed and Tired
Did you know that the more stressed you are, the more likely you are to take shallow breaths? When you are feeling the pressure, or you have had a bad day, you can internalize those stressors and your body will start to breath more rapidly, and less deeply.
Here is a breathing exercise you can try, to help lower your stress and restore your energy, when you are behind the wheel of your truck:
- Inhale deeply through your nose.
- Hold your breath for 3-5 seconds.
- Exhale through your mouth.
- Repeat for three intervals.
For a truck driver, this particular breathing exercise creates a calming effect. What you are also doing is increasing the oxygen levels in your cells, which also helps you feel more energetic and alert. All good things when it’s been a really long day and your next schedule rest break is hours away.
Remember that chronic stress has a really detrimental impact on your health as a professional truck driver. You may just want to ‘power through’ when you are feeling stressed, but pay attention to how you feel and the signals your body is sending you. Every CDL truck driver has their own methods of coping with stress; make sure you do it in a healthy way. What is your tried and true method? If you are a truck driver in Houston, share your comments with us. We’d love to hear your own stress busting tips for truckers.