by Pride Transport | Dec 16, 2019
The holidays. They seem to be starting earlier and earlier every year. And, let’s face it, by holidays we mean Christmas. Halloween gets an aisle in the grocery store full of candy and some good parties by serious Halloweenies. Thanksgiving gets a nod, a turkey and football but it seems like it’s just a hurdle we have to get over, have to acknowledge, so we can get to Christmas. The decorations, the geegaws, and hoozits of the holiday supreme. No matter when you decide to put up the tree, hang the lights, spike the punch, the holidays are a time of joy and a time of stress for the average person or family.
Imagine what it’s like for truck drivers.
For the 3.5 million truck drivers on the road, the holidays have a very different meaning than they do for the rest of us.
The Busy Season
For truck drivers, the holidays are the busiest time of year. Think of it, billions of packages to be hauled over millions of miles to get the shelves full. Drivers will work more hours and drive more miles in order to make the holidays happen for us. Often, during this high-pressure season, drivers are on the road 7 days per week pushing the limits of their hours of service regulations. This means they are driving all night long, driving through extreme weather, driving on roads filled with holiday party goers. Always remember that this is a very tough time for truck drivers.
Think About it
In the rush and excitement of the impending holidays, we get online and order gifts, lights, decorations, trees, that incredibly ugly sweater that you claim to wear ironically but, no one can really sense irony so people think you just have horrible taste. All of those items get to you in boxes, via trucks.
You plan a great holiday feast. You plan snacks and treats for when people may just drop by, you plan that horrific clam dip that you use “klams” for. Then, off you go, list in hand, to the grocery store and you just expect that all the cans of pumpkin filling and vegetables, the roast beef, the cartons of chicken stock, the candy canes, condensed milk, all of it will just be there and it is. But, do you know why it is? Because of truck drivers.
Without truck drivers, the shelves at your local food emporium would be as bare as Cindy Lou Who’s house post-Grinch. It would be terrible.
Think about your Thanksgiving meal. Yes, it’s a lesser holiday when compared with the King of Holidays but, it’s a holiday nonetheless. On average, every year, 46,000,000 turkeys are delivered by trucks. That’s a lot of turkeys and not one of them would get to your grocer then to your oven, then to your lower intestines, if it weren’t for truck drivers.
In 2017. UPS mandated that all package drivers work 70 hours per week to accommodate the daily delivery of around 30,000,000 packages. That equates to 750,000,000 within the 20 shipping days prior to Christmas. That requires a lot of drivers, covering a lot of miles, driving for many, many hours.
You do What They Can't
Unlike most of us, truck drivers don’t usually have the luxury of spending holidays with family. Most of them are on the road doing their job. Sometimes drivers have made plans to be home and then, bad weather shows up and those plans are done for. Drivers then find themselves stranded, far from home and alone.
There is still an alarming shortage of drivers in the industry however, the consumer need doesn’t take this into account. So, more items are ordered online, especially during the holidays and more items need to be shipped which means the workload for the current number of truck drivers is exponentially greater.
It’s important to understand this situation when in the middle of the consumer rush of the holidays. Have some patience and understanding if something is arriving late or if the shelves don’t have a certain item right at the moment. Understanding the extreme demand and pressures truck drivers are under can help make the holidays less stressful for consumers and for the truck drivers as well.
A Difficult Time
With the stress, pressure, long hours and countless miles that go along with the holiday season being on the road, being away from family can cause loneliness, which can lead to depression and sometimes that can send a driver off in the direction of suicidal thoughts.
It’s very important during the holidays that drivers talk to each other, that they are aware of each other and are looking out for signs of depression. A lot of emotional pressure is applied to the holidays. Demands on time and people’s expectations about what should and shouldn't happen are often the cause of many arguments and unrest during the holidays. It’s a difficult time for most people, being alone, on the road, under pressure can exacerbate the feelings of loneliness or grief. Drivers should be aware and treat themselves more kindly, give themselves more of a break during the holidays.
How to Cope
As a driver, you cannot control your schedule so being at parties or holiday events becomes very touch and go and the pressure to be somewhere can cause more stress than necessary. Here are five useful thoughts to keep in mind when the holiday stress creeps in.
Since you’re not 100% sure where you’ll be or when during the holidays allow yourself some measure of flexibility. Don’t overload your schedule too much, if you cannot make certain events, the pressure of saying you’ll be there will pile up making you feel worse. Pick a few events you know you can make and for the rest, enjoy being the surprise guest, that will be fun.
Don’t Ignore the Holidays
It might seem like a good idea to just keep your head down and ignore the holidays, grit your teeth and just get through them, but that’s really not a good idea. You’ll regret that choice and find yourself in a swell of post-holiday depression. It’s best to face them on your own terms and enjoy them.
You’re a driver, you’re used to playing by a different set of rules, apply that to the holidays. If you cannot be home for Christmas day or Thanksgiving day then make Thanksgiving the Friday or make Christmas the 26th. The point of the holidays is to be together and celebrate. If you’re sticking to schedules and feeling bad about not meeting certain days, you’re giving yourself more undue stress. Make the magic happen when it can happen and take comfort in that.
Holiday with Technology
Now more than ever there are devices and streams that allow us to stay in constant contact with each other. Lean on these during the holidays and keep connected with family and friends. Facebook your journey home or your holiday on the road. Live stream the dinner, even though you're not right there, you will know how loved and missed you are. You can skype, snap chat, Marco Polo, whatever method you like best, use it and stay connected.
Don’t Go It Alone
You’re never on the road alone as a driver, There are fellow drivers on the road, at the truck stops, in the restaurants, find them, connect with them. Share stories of other holidays, share ways to deal with the holidays. Share a meal, pictures, stories or even just simple greetings. Merry Christmas to a stranger or from a stranger really does make the holidays seem more real. Try it. Don’t do it alone. Find your road family.
Get In The Spirit
Sometimes a thing can immediately drop you right in the middle of the holiday spirit, maybe it's a smell or a sound. Find out what that is and keep that spirit alive through the holidays. Maybe a wreath on your grill. Some pine spray or pumpkin spice spray in your cab. Christmas carols on the radio that you can sing along with. Whatever that thing is that drops you into the holiday spirit, find it, nurture it, share it and keep yourself in the spirit all season long.
Say Thank You
For those who are benefitting from the people who are behind the wheel, traversing the highways, it’s nice to acknowledge what these men and women are doing for us at this time of year. If you see a truck driver, say thanks, say merry Christmas. Let them know you appreciate and understand what they do. If you’re driving the highways, be aware, be respectful and take care when you’re out in their world. If you have time, stop off at the truck stops, say thanks, give cards or put together small care packages to hand out. Do what you feel but it really is as simple as saying Happy Holidays and thank you.
It’s hard to calculate what truck drivers do for all of us during the holidays. The time, energy and care they bring to the work so that those whose faces they’ve never seen, names they don’t know can have happy holidays. They are invaluable, overworked and most times, they are under-appreciated. This holiday season, do what you can to change that a little and make sure these true Santas, the ones who actually deliver the goods we all count on and hope for, get some holiday cheer.
If you have any ideas about how to make the holidays better for drivers please leave your suggestions in the comments. Anything to help our hard-working highway cowboys out is always appreciated.