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Combatting The Most Common Challenges Truck Drivers Face In The Industry Today

Trucking is the backbone of our economy, and yet one of the most difficult professions to work in. Working as a trucker is an exciting and rewarding way to earn an income, but it's also got many moving parts and challenges. As a truck driver, you have to face many different types of risks, and they are usually outside your control. It's a hard job, and not everyone knows all the challenges that come with it. Understanding some of the biggest challenges the trucking industry faces, can help us look into possible solutions to overcome them and ensure a better experience for truck drivers everywhere.  Truck drivers are the backbone of our nation’s freight system, and deserve a voice. 

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Parking Limitations

Finding safe and convenient parking has been an issue for truckers for some time, and it seems to be hitting drivers across North America. The governing powers in each state seem to lack the initiative to fix these issues, despite truckers being essential to the economy. A semi truck is a large vehicle, and cannot be parked anywhere, which makes finding parking a challenging task for drivers.

The reason lack of parking is a problem for truckers, is not only due to time wasted, but rather it is also a safety issue. Truckers need to stop after 11 hours due to their ELD mandate, and they have a designated rest period they need to adhere to. However, when there is lack of access to parking, drivers are forced to park in areas which may be unsafe or not ideal for them, due to lack of time to find another spot and lack of spaces. The limited availability of safe areas designated for truckers to park also puts them in dangerous spots, resulting in safety issues and added stress.

Trucking companies should consider taking initiative to rent out spots for their drivers to park when on their routes, on a monthly basis. Drivers who do not work for a company can also try to budget paid parking or research ahead of time where there may be spots, as well as use apps that provide an accurate estimate of spot availability in each area. Some websites or apps to consider here include; WhereiPark, Truck Parking, Trucker Tools, Park My Rig, or Park My Truck.

Driver Shortages

While truck driver shortages may seem like a bigger problem in the industry for shippers and businesses, it is also reflective of other challenges truck drivers face.  Drivers who are heading into retirement or those who quit due to stressful and unsafe work conditions are contributing to this shortage, and thus impacting the supply chain.

However, while there are many jobs available due to the shortage, these jobs are not all quality jobs. Often drivers may end up having to work in regions or areas they would rather avoid, or spend more time away from home due to work pressure and needs. These shortages create a rather hectic and competitive environment, and it can put a lot of unnecessary pressure on drivers.

An obvious solution to driver shortages is better pay and compensation packages for drivers, which will provide incentive to stay with a company. Governmental changes such as initiatives in expediting CDLs or fixing infrastructure, and creating better training programs, may also bring in resources. Keeping trucks maintained and safe, as well as providing adequate training is essential. Companies also need to become more transparent and held accountable about what they promise in the hiring process, compared to the actual working conditions they create for drivers.   

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Unstable Pay

Making money as a truck driver can be complicated, whether you are owner-operator or working for a company. Usually companies will pay by the mile, but routes may be irregular, which creates an issue with bringing home a consistent salary. Drivers who end up having to wait to load or unload also may be losing time without getting paid, which creates issue. Owner-operators have business costs, fuel costs and then the responsibility of booking loads, which can create an inconsistent earning schedule as well.

While there need to be bigger regulatory changes made to ensure all drivers are fairly compensated, there are some ways to address these issues now. One way to address salary issues is to seek out companies which pay by the hour, in order to have a more consistent idea of the salary you are taking home. Other drivers can look into booking loads ahead of time to early, which may mean occasionally taking a smaller rate in a competitive market, but it will lead to more consistent earnings over time.

Conflicting Regulations

While regulations exist to create a safe standard for operation, they often end up negatively impacting drivers, and create added expenses for trucking companies, as a lot of these rules are set in place by those who have never been a truck driver to begin with. Uninformed regulations set in place by those which lack industry experience or understanding of the job, tend to limit drivers and force them into compliance of rules that make their job harder, as opposed to safer.

Any new regulations introduced should have a long enough grace period, as well as opportunity for drivers to get adjusted. New regulations should also be run by industry professionals and drivers who have firsthand experience, in order to understand what can help drivers without handicapping them, or resulting in penalties for drivers who are simply trying to do their job.

High Stress Environment 

Truck drivers have one of the toughest jobs out there, and it can negatively impact their own health and wellbeing. Due to the hours, stress and sedentary nature of the job; truck drivers are at higher risk for heart issues, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and sleep issues. There is lack of work and life balance, which can also negatively impact the mental health and wellbeing of drivers. 

One way to combat health issues brought on by the job, is to develop a routine and set schedule, to suit each driver’s needs. Drivers should be given more autonomy in their scheduling and routes, in order to maintain their health. Regular exercise, taking breaks to properly rest and tune out work pressures, and regular doctor visits will benefit any driver looking to maintain their health. Prioritizing time at home is also essential, as no load or money is worth jeopardizing your health. Some ways drivers can ensure greater work life balance can include:

  • Setting Boundaries (Know your off time, Leave work problems  at work, Don’t let anyone rush you).
  • Get Comfortable With Saying No (Do not do anything that does not feel right to you).
  • Maintain a Schedule That Works For You (Take your vacation days, Pace yourself). 
  • Develop a Support System (Talk to other drivers, family or your online community).
  • Seek Out Trucking Companies Which Provide Health Benefits

Truck driving is not for the faint of heart. While the industry is the backbone of the economy, driving exports and supporting innovation across industries; it is also a very challenging business. It's dangerous, physically demanding, and can be stressful.  When we take into account the challenges drivers and the industry are facing, we can make changes to help our drivers and our businesses.