As many of you know, trucking can be an incredibly isolating career.  Not everyone is a social butterfly, but most need some social contact.  Not only is social involvement important, but also family involvement is just as important (and many would argue that it is more important).   You are probably on the road for weeks and possibly months at a time to support your family.  If you also ignore your family for this period of time, this is harming your family and yourself.  Many truckers and their family talk as if the driver is no longer part of the family—almost as if the children are being raised by a single parent.

Obviously, it is difficult staying in touch with family when you are on the road.  Technology enables communication through use of our cell phones, email, Skype, social media... and the list goes on.  But some of these forms of technology can breed miscommunication since you loose tone, inflection and true conversation with some of these forms of technology such as a text or email. Even further, the driver and family become much more relaxed about the ability to communicate, but do not do so because they do not make it a priority.

It is important to setup a schedule for communication.  For example, you could put a reminder in your phone to call home daily or every-other-day.  Better yet, you could setup the reminder during a time that you and your family have the most energy.  Make sure you don’t put the call off by waiting until the last minute before bedtime.  This will allow you and your family to have the most energy to have a quality conversation.

Another important idea is to use your voice to communicate with your family.  There are a lot of drivers who focus on using texting to communicate with their families.  This is effective for short conversations and business.  However, so much is lost in the written word.  This is not an effective medium for expressing emotion and trying to achieve some closeness…especially when you have been on the road for a long time.

Skype and Facetime are great additions to the phone calls.  This requires a quality wifi connection or strong cell reception (and uses a great deal of data).  However, this can be looked at as a great supplement to the phone calls.  It is so much nicer to see your loved ones as you talk.  Children can also show homework and class projects over their webcam.  This can add a much better quality experience for everyone involved.

Home time is another issue that is troublesome for many drivers and their families.  It is important to make sure that you take as much home time as you can afford and/or your company allows.  Often, there is an adjustment when the driver comes home.  For example, the father may be the trucker who is out for weeks on end and then expects to be the disciplinarian as soon as he gets home.  This can undermine the mother’s authority and any arrangement she has set up with the children.  Again, communication with your partner is key to running a smooth family.

Another home time issue that frequently comes up in the course of therapy is the driver’s difficulty adjusting to family in the first day or two of being home.  The family often wants the driver to go places and do things…just the opposite of what he/she really wants to do.  Most drivers want to rest and driving somewhere is the last thing on the list.  For some drivers, it works better to take fewer home time trips, but make the stay much longer.  Thus, there are fewer adjustment periods.

Remember, the key to being a successful trucker is taking care of yourself and your family.  If you isolate yourself, this hurts you and everyone around you.  I don’t think anyone wants to be known as the absent parent.  You might have no choice about the amount of time you are on the road.  However, you do have a choice to communicate clearly, often, and with good spirit.

Keys to communication when you are on the road:

  • Make calls, instead of only texting
  • Use Skype and Facetime as much as possible
  • Communicate on a regular basis and when you have good energy
  • Take as much home time as possible
  • Consider taking longer periods of home time to reduce adjustment periods

Family What forms of technology do you use to stay in touch with your family?
 
11%
 
15%
 
47%
 
11%
 
13%

Comments (9)

buck black

Buck is a licensed therapist (LCSW, LCAC) in a private practice who focuses on anger, stress, and relationships. He practices in Lafayette, Indiana and is available online at www.BuckBlack.com. He specializes in working with truckers and their families over the phone and on Skype at www.TruckerTherapy.com.

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thanks great idea,

October 05, 2012 21:37:56 PM

Driving is a world separate from from any other work life. When I drove, once home it took 24 hrs to re-adjust AND most of that time was sleeping. Once adjusted I got my time zone and 24 hour clock back, and the proper day of the month. Only then did I feel re-connected. Don't get me wrong if the open road is in your blood then driving is the only way to feel complete.

October 05, 2012 9:44:49 AM

Thank you Mr. Black for such a great article!
I hope that this helps many driver's to better understand the importance of quality communication with their families.
I think it is too easy to become the absentee parent whom is thought of to not be involved in their childrens' lives.
Today there are many means of communication but you are quite correct in suggestion inflection is often not enough and that a true visual is better.

October 04, 2012 12:22:30 PM

I always hated being gone for a couple of weeks at a time and then getting home and my wife would instantly want me to discipline our daughter for something she'd done or hadn't done.

At first, when she was younger, it didn't really hit me, but after she started getting older I could see her starting to make herself scarce just around the time I was supposed to be getting home. She would try to make sure she had a friends house to spend the night at and sometimes the whole weekend and I wouldn't get to see her at all.

I finally caught on and stopped being the "bad guy" as much as I could. Although, that in itself can be a trap, too. Too much leniency and dear old dad becomes a pushover for the daughter and a punching bag for the wife for not being tough enough. Sheesh, can a guy get a break?

It was still hard though due to the ratio of home time vs. gone time. It's a rough life, but, thankfully, I have a great wife that is used to me being gone from my days in the military and now 17 years of trucking.

Fortunately, that scenario is no longer a problem because my wife and I are empty nesters and loving it. Ahh, peace and quite and no drama...yeah right!

October 04, 2012 6:46:08 AM

Great article, I agree hometime is very important to me and my wife. And strong communication is just as important.

October 03, 2012 8:51:00 AM

Thanks to cell phones I find that we communicate more now than when my wife and I saw eachother everyday. The other good thing is we really make the time we have together count more then when I used to be home everyday. It makes it so we don't take our time together for granted.

October 03, 2012 6:42:01 AM

I concur.

October 03, 2012 4:55:48 AM

Buck great article! Being a team changes the equation some but we do have our daughter at home who takes care of our house and she likes for us to hit the ground running with activities. Our favorite way to go home is to have the first day a day of unloading the truck and no where to go. A day to transition from being in a moving vehicle without running water to a stable bed and a bathroom that we do not have to go outside to another building to use. I am also excited about cooking a meal and eating at home.

Our youngest daughter is in Kuwait and we communicate with her on Facetime which is awesome with the time difference. I can chat with her while going down the road on my I-Phone and it is as if she is in the truck with me. Brandy was able to give us a tour of her living quarters using Facetime on her Ipad which gives us a better understanding of her living conditions. Vast improvement from the first time she deployed.

We have found that Facebook enables our family to keep up with each other when we cannot call daily. We are able to see pictures of our families activities and also see how their day is going. We have found that through social media we keep track of our friends better and are often able to see them while out on the road as they have delivered near us or they are passing through an area where we are parked.

Social Media had enabled us to stay in touch with more people and get little snippets of what is going on in their lives. It is much easier to stay in touch with family and friends and stay involved in their lives with the use of a smart phone or computer.

October 02, 2012 17:35:47 PM

It is good to know that I'm not the only one that needs a day or two to adjust to back family/home time. Great article!

October 02, 2012 15:02:54 PM