Stress. We all deal with it. Much has been written about the daily stress and challenges fleet managers face daily, but what about commercial drivers? Is truck driving a stressful job? Does it have to be?
First, what is stress? Stress is a body’s way of coping with forces on the inside or outside world affecting an individual's life. So, to combat stress, two things need to be addressed: inside, personal issues, and outside, added stressors caused by the job itself.
A stressed-out truck driver isn't efficient, and they are far more likely than most people to be thinking about anything BUT safety while on the road. Not to mention the impact stress has on overall health.
With truck driver retention efforts at an all-time high, keeping your workforce happy is important.
Aside from providing time and support for employees needing personal help, as a fleet manager, there is a lot you can do to help reduce the stressors in the office, dealing on the route, and in the vehicle.
Is Truck Driving Stressful? Learn the Impact
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, commercial vehicle drivers and truckers face a disproportionately high risk of fatal crash-related injuries and serious health disorders.
The CDC noted that, in 2015, about 2.6 million U.S. workers drove trucks weighing over 10,000 pounds. After dropping to 35-year lows in 2009, the number of crash fatalities of commercial drivers or their passengers increased between 2009 and 2012.
In 2022, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that 31,785 people died in traffic crashes in the first nine months of the year. This is a 0.2% decrease as compared to the 31,850 estimated fatalities during the same time in 2021. Efforts to improve safety are making a difference.
Overall, 317,000 motor vehicle crashes involving large trucks were reported to police in 2012, according to the CDC.
Looking further ahead, in 2020, an estimated 2.28 million people injured on U.S. roads, according to FHWA Annual Highway Statistics. While there were 7.8% less people involved in large-truck crashes compared to 2019, those numbers are still very high.
Now consider the time commercial driver's license (CDL) holders and over-the-road drivers drive each week, including dealing with heavy traffic and bad drivers. Being a truck driver isn't for everyone.
Understanding the Impact of Stress on Commercial Drivers
Excessive stress in the workplace can have undesirable consequences on mental and physical health. Truck drivers deal with:
- Pressure from traffic, including rude people on the road.
- Delivery timing (“Am I going to be late?”).
- Bad weather and poor road conditions.
- Customer expectations and attitude.
- Long hours and irregular schedules.
- Increased health problems and a lack of sleep.
- Difficult truck driving situations, including tight areas to maneuver within.
Added Factors That Impact Stress
Add the responsibility for a piece of equipment worth tens of thousands of dollars, and you have a hotbed for stress.
Add the health concerns and challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic to already high-stress levels and typically poor driver health, and we have today’s stressed-out commercial driver.
Research from the University of Arkansas in 2020 dug deeper into the anyone driving trucks may experience:
"Truck drivers spend long hours in relative isolation hundreds of miles from home. This contributes to the exhaustion many experience. It also contributes to one of the four major job-related stressors drivers identify: loneliness and loss of family life. While drivers often enter the career to provide a better life for themselves and their family, many wind up questioning whether the financial benefits outweigh the costs associated with being away from their family so consistently," the reported stated.
We can see the impact on truck drivers, but how can this impact the company? According to a study by the American Society of Safety Engineers, if employees experience excessive stress, the stress factor will greatly influence a company’s economics.
This can include but is not limited to increased Workers’ Compensation claims, absenteeism, poor customer service, and decreased driver retention rates. All these factors can also lead to job “burnout” as well.
Top Stress Fighting Tips for Truck Drivers
Here are a few stress relief tips to share with your work truck drivers:
- Help drivers be more efficient. Do whatever possible to improve route and trip planning. When drivers worry about making it to their next stop on time, they may rush, skip safety checks, or drive irresponsibly to get to the next stop. Better route and trip planning can help take this stress off the driver.
- Keep the truck well-maintained. Knowing a truck will safely get them from point A to point B and back again helps reduce the stress on your driver. Constant worry about equipment failure, roadside breakdowns, or potential accidents only adds to a driver's already stressful day.
- Create a safe environment for driver health. Get out and exercise! Recommend to your truck drivers that they take a quick walk on breaks. A few laps around the truck (while doing safety checks) get the blood pumping and the heart working.
- Recommend healthier eating habits. Some recommendations include keeping a small cooler in the vehicle with ice packs and filling it with bottled water and fruit for snacks. While this can be difficult for truck drivers, it’s not impossible.
- Repeat the importance of rest. It's important that all drivers get plenty of rest! A good night’s sleep and proper use of break time to recharge a driver’s batteries are essential.
- Stay positive and repetitive. Overall, try to stay positive. Today might not be the best day, but tomorrow is a new day. And never stop repeating the message and efforts that reducing driver stress is possible.
Providing Relief for Your Truck Driver Fleet
So, is truck driving stressful? Yes. How stressful is trucking driving? It really depends on the steps you are taking to help mitigate the issue.
But, the many truckers on the road today see something to this occupation that still keeps them driving every day.
I want to know: Are you currently working to reduce driver stress? What actions are you taking? E-mail me and let's chat!