If you are new driver and new to the trucking industry, there are probably a lot of unknowns that have you guessing just what you’re in for. You can do research, speak to other drivers and get advice, but that still won’t completely prepare you for this new career and life on the road. I speak from experience! Four and a half years ago, my husband did his best to prepare me for our new life. It definitely helped, but I still had a lot to learn. Hopefully, reading this post will help to prepare you a bit more as you start your new career.
Creating Structure in Instability
I think one of the hardest things to do in this industry is to create structure in an entirely unpredictable lifestyle. Of course, this varies individually depending on what you are hauling, what routes you run, how much home time you get etc. My husband and I run produce and hazmat on the western half of the country and we live 24/7 in our rig so that’s what my experience is based on. Prepare yourself in that everything you know to be “normal” living is going to change and have to be recalibrated for life on the road in a tight space, irregular schedules and inconvenience.
Living in a MUCH smaller space, especially with two people, takes some adjusting to. I think the most important things to remember is to have a routine. Be as structured as possible, make the most of the space you have by using every available area, and keep things organized and easily accessible.
Here are a few of my tips on staying organized and making the most of the little space available on a truck:
For example, most people don’t even think about it when it comes to brushing their teeth; in a home everything is at your fingertips, including running water. What we do is keep our toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss etc in a Tupperware container that is easily accessible. We have a large Tupperware bowl we Velcro to the top of our fridge inside a cabinet (so it’s out of sight) and we use bottled water to brush our teeth and to rinse the bowl daily. In short, keep the things you use daily or multiple times a day within reach and life will be much easier for you on the road. Velcro is your friend, use it to hang hooks, small bins for fruit or snacks, or to just keep things like a coffee maker from moving around. As you get into a routine and get more adjusted to living in your truck, you will be able to fine tune things to make it easier and more comfortable for yourself.
Keep Your Sanity
Another important thing is to get your rest, both for your health and for your sanity. If you are not getting enough rest, it causes stress and stress causes health and emotional issues. As I said earlier, we run produce so sometimes we may sit for hours at a shipper's waiting on product and then still have to drive all night. A lot of times we have to force ourselves to just take some time to rest and re-boot.
Don't Underestimate Creature Comforts
Along with getting enough rest, I feel having some of the comforts of home like a TV, internet access, a CB radio and a hobby help relieve some of the stress of the road and help to keep your sanity and give you a sense of normalcy. Having a TV and internet access helps you feel connected to home by watching some of your favorite shows. We have a smart TV with Hulu, Netflix and Amazon so when we have some down time or a day off, it’s nice to get caught up on our shows.
Having internet also helps you stay connected with family & friends via social media, Skype or Facetime and having a CB radio helps you connect with other drivers. If you are a solo driver especially, it can get lonely out there mile after mile, so having a pet ride along and share the experience with you can help with the loneliness or feeling of detachment from being away from family and friends. I would also recommend creating or having a hobby you can do on the road like working out, reading, crossword puzzles, video games, something to keep your brain and body occupied. Besides working out every chance I get, I read and took up knitting, something I’ve never done before and now everyone I know is getting a beanie or a scarf for Christmas!
In the end, I think the biggest challenge for living life on the road isn’t necessarily the physical aspects, but the mental ones. The more you can do to make yourself as comfortable as you can, the easier it is emotionally and mentally to be successful at what you do. If your heart and mind are constantly somewhere else (like back home), and not in the present (in your truck), then it will make working in this industry much more difficult. Having said all this, take some time to adjust to your new job and lifestyle, cut yourself some slack, and ask for help when needed. Over time it will become second-nature. By applying some of these suggestions to your new career, it will give you a head start at being successful and will make your transition much easier.