This discussion of stress came up the other day and it caught me by surprise, as it is something I do not think about often. One study I looked at listed truck driving as 8th on the list of most dangerous jobs. Truck driving does not get that high on the list without a reason.
In trucking we often do not go back to the same customer so we are always exploring new frontiers and each location can have its own sets of obstacles. We do not always use docks so when pulling onto a property we watch for low over hangs, we often have to maneuver around decorative flower and tree beds, and of course the oddly parked cars to get near to where the freight is located.
We are constantly in different cities with a new address and often these addresses are not in truck friendly places. We deal with shippers who have never used a truck before and we deliver to places that usually do not see trucks. Each one of situations is fraught with dangers. The shipper will ask us to put the truck where it will not fit and we have to come up with a solution to fit their needs. Sometimes we pickup and deliver at houses, now we have to watch out for trees that can poke holes in the box, children playing in the street, narrow streets, and low hanging power lines. Once we arrive at the house another set of problems always emerges, such as steps, trees, blocking the streets and the list goes on and on. This is a good time to set out orange cones.
A flat bed operator often has to tarp and un-tarp in high winds, a car carrier who has to load or unload with ice covering the trailer and cars. A food grade tanker driver who only has on half a load dealing with the liquid sloshing around in the trailer. A refrigerated trailer dealing with keeping the temperature of the trailer at a certain point no matter what the temperature is outside as they traverse the country. The livestock hauler who has a cow go down and cannot get them back up.
Once we are loaded we start to our delivery that could be across town or across the United States. Once we start on our route it is usually non-stop except for fuel and driver changes. There are loads where we run a split shift of 8 8 2 2 so that we do not have to stop for the HOS 1/2 hour break. While crossing the country we often have weather issues, road construction, detours, and sometime the motorist who is slightly inebriated. We have mountains to climb, wind that is trying to blow us over, ice on the roads, and at times blowing dust.
Once we start getting near our destination we often have several directions to one location. Some directions are on our Omnitracs that the customer has supplied and they are often the directions a car would take, this does not include weight limited bridges or low underpasses. Even with a GPS and customer directions it can be difficult to find a customer and if available the docks. Often the customer gives the directions to the office and not to the backside of the building where we need to enter the location. If this happens, it can be difficult to find a safe place to turn around and repeat the search for the customer’s location.
So now that we have delivered we head down to the local truck stop for a well-deserved rest... Now we have another set of problems. There is a lot of stress in trucking and I only touched on the tip of the iceberg. The way to deal with this stress is to take one moment at a time and not worry about what you can change. We cannot change road construction, low bridges, other drivers, or locations that do not have good signage.
Some things I handle better then others and getting lost is not one of them. Over the years I have learned how to handle ice, read the road conditions by watching other vehicles, staying calm in traffic, but through all of this the one thing that stresses me greatly is when I cannot find a customers address. I know this and I do all that I can to find an address before a trip but it still happens and the key for me is when I turn around and start back to look for that address is to take a moment and regroup and remind myself it is not the end of the world. Each of us deals with stress in a different way and with a stressful job the key is to take one moment at a time and make sure to take time to smell the roses!