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Driving a truck OTR is insanity. First, it is a ridiculously straining job, requiring an incredible time-commitment and the disruption of any semblance of a normal life. Second, we don't get paid nearly enough to compensate us for the effect this work has on our bodies, minds, and families. In the post below, I'll cover all the things that make OTR truck driving insane and then point out a way we can fix it.

Why Driving a Truck OTR is Pure Insanity

Reason #1 - The Time Commitment

This is the most obvious insane aspect of OTR truck driving. The minimum amount of time away from home is 5 days out of every 7. The average amount that most OTR drivers spend away from home is 11 out of 14. This equals almost 80% of our lives spent away from our families, and that means we are spending 8 years out of every 10 away from our kids.

Reason #2 - The Risks

There are tremendous risks involved with this profession. We could lose our lives or have a serious injury from an accident. If we do get in an accident and manage to survive and not become disabled, we still might lose our jobs from being considered a risk, "losing our load", or causing damage to property because we are liable for all of these things regardless of whether we are at fault for the accident. There are also tons of Federal, State, and local government rules and regulations that we might be held accountable for violating even though that is a huge load of information to be aware of.

Reason #3 - The Challenges

Being an OTR truck driver poses many challenges to our bodies and minds and families. We spend as many as 18 hours a day in a 8' x 8' enclosed cab, rely almost exclusively on public showers and restrooms, eat wherever we can stop, and endure insane job-related pressures.

These challenges can be broken up into six categories: driving, emotional, job, mental, physical, and weather.

Driving challenges include:

  • hostile, impatient, inexperienced, and reckless motorists
  • black ice
  • blinding snow
  • white outs
  • slick roads
  • wind gusts
  • road closures
  • traffic congestion
  • steep downhill grades over black ice or slick roads

Emotional challenges from this lonely and stressful lifestyle include feelings of:

  • Alienation
  • Aggression
  • Aggravation
  • Loneliness
  • Anguish
  • Shame
  • Bitterness
  • Being blamed
  • Being cheated
  • Confusion
  • Being cut-down
  • Being criticized
  • Defeated
  • Deflated
  • Dehumanized
  • Desperation
  • Discouragement
  • Being disrespected
  • Being drained
  • Being exploited
  • Guilt
  • Being ignored
  • Being imprisoned
  • Insecurity
  • Being insignificant
  • Intimidation
  • Being invisible
  • Being lost
  • Being manipulated
  • Being misunderstood
  • Being neglected
  • Obligation
  • Being offended
  • Being overruled
  • Being powerless
  • Being punished
  • Being put-down
  • Rage
  • Being rejected
  • Being robbed
  • Resentful
  • Restricted
  • Being stereotyped
  • Being trapped
  • Being underestimated
  • Being unloved
  • Being unsafe
  • Being unsupported
  • Worthlessness

*These feelings may come from spouses who are suffering from our lifestyle, kids who miss us, receivers, shippers, and the government.

Job challenges include:

  • Receiving a bad address or poor driving directions
  • Conflicts with other drivers
  • Having to fit or remove snow chains in the cold or at night
  • Tire blow outs
  • Losing air in the tires while driving
  • Hydroplaning
  • Nasty smells and poor sanitation in public restrooms
  • Random DOT inspections
  • Rescheduled appointments
  • Speeding fines
  • Unforgiving shippers and receivers
  • Wrong or missed turns
  • Waiting for a new load assignment
  • Waiting to be loaded and unloaded

Mental challenges include developing or becoming:

  • Rage and aggression making you do abusive things
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anti-social behaviors
  • Poor attitude
  • Lack of feeling emotion, or being interested or concerned
  • Lack of will or motivation
  • Low self-esteem
  • Rationalizing
  • Suicidal

Physical challenges include:

  • Back pain
  • Caffeine dependence
  • Misuse of energy enhancements
  • Cold
  • Sexual deprivation
  • Exhaustion
  • Hunger
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Limited opportunities for physical activity or exercise
  • Malnutrition
  • Nicotine dependence
  • Night-eating
  • Overeating
  • Being overweight or obese

Weather-related challenges include:

  • Downdrafts
  • Fog
  • Freezing rain
  • Freezing temperatures
  • High winds
  • Hail storms
  • Ice
  • Snow
  • Tornado
  • Torrential rain

Reason #4 - Enormous Responsibilities

The responsibilities we carry figuratively on our backs and literally on our minds every day is crushing. We have to be aware of our immediate surroundings at all times, monitor speed limits and road signs, formulate our trip and route plan, plan for the weather, navigate lane changes and turns, make it through traffic congestion, avoid restricted roads and low bridges, anticipate both the actions and reactions of other drivers, drive defensively, and arrive on time without incident, all while managing the driving hazards, emotional pressures, and health concerns mentioned above.

We have to communicate our trip status and complete log books daily. Our vehicle has to be inspected and maintained at all times in compliance with industry standards and protocols and we have to perform pre-trip and post-trip inspections daily. We have to monitor our load closely and prevent it from being lost, damaged, or stolen. We also have to always be prepared to respond in the event of an emergency or vehicle or equipment failure. Again, all of this has to be done in a ridiculously stressful environment.

Reason #5 - The Pay

This is the real kicker. Yes, the job is ridiculously demanding. Much of that we knew about and accepted before we took the job. The problem is that the job requires way too much sacrifice on our part for the pay we receive, and that we weren't prepared for. Driving a truck OTR is often touted as a way to make a decent income without a degree, and many of us take the job when we are desperate to provide for our families, but that promise suddenly becomes less believable when we realize there is no future and that the money stops the moment we stop driving.

Today, the average pay for an OTR truck driver is less than $4,000 gross per month during the first two years, then, if you're lucky, maybe more than $6,000 after the first five. It never reaches more than $7,000. But the median household income in the US in 2015 was $4,709 and the cost of living for a four-person family in 20 major US cities ranges from around $5,000 in Houston to $8,000 in New York City. That means for all we give up, we are not ever able to escape living paycheck to paycheck and may not even be able to afford to live in some places, even after making a career of truck driving.

The little bit of extra money is not worth this extreme lifestyle and nothing can prepare you for all that's involved. According to Albert Einstein, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting to get different results. This is exactly how we feel month after month and year after year sacrificing without reward. It doesn't take much to get into truck driving and once you're in, you usually get stuck. We then rationalize the decision and why we stick with it so we can cope. Then we become bitter and cut off from others.

But it doesn't have to be this way. There is a very specific reason why we are stuck in this cycle, and it is our own failure and shortsightedness that keeps our paychecks lower than they should be. If we were to leverage our ability to do this job that is crucial to commerce, we could end up making money on the same basis as any owner of a large truckload carrier or freight brokerage firm and actually get the benefits we deserve. All it requires is a change in the way we think and the formulation of a battle plan based on that new way of thinking. Subscribe to learn more.

About the author

Myron Manuirirangi

A wonderful serenity has taken possession of
my entire soul, like these sweet mornings of spring which I enjoy with my whole heart.


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