Just about every facet of consumers’ lives is made possible because truck drivers deliver goods on a daily basis. According to the American Trucking Associations, the trucking industry carried 72.5% of all freight transported in the U.S. in 2019, equating to 11.84 billion tons. If truck drivers were to stop operating, we’d be in big trouble.
During the current COVID-19 crisis, truck drivers have proven to fit the government’s “essential worker” title. National Truck Driver Appreciation Week took place on September 13-19, 2020 to emphasize the vital role truck drivers have played during the coronavirus pandemic. While many places of business such as restaurants, clothing stores, and bars, have shut their doors to contain the spread of the virus, local and federal authorities have requested the trucking industry continue to keep the supply chain in motion.
In the words of a trucker quoted in USA Today, “If the freight’s there, it’s got to move. If people are going to eat, the trucks are gonna move. If they need medical supplies, the trucks are gonna move. If we stop, the world stops.” Thankfully, the estimated 3.5 million United States-based professional truckers are continuing to keep the shelves of grocery stores stocked with food and household necessities for consumers, along with ensuring medical staff receives supplies needed to give proper healthcare.
What Would Happen if We Didn’t Have Truckers?
Many people outside of the trucking industry do not think about where all of their goods originate from, nor give a thought to the dire scenario that could be presented if truckers stopped operating completely. Consider the example of the week-long strike carried out by truck drivers across Brazil in 2018. CNN reported the results heavily impacted the country as the strike “prevented the delivery of goods to supermarkets and gas to petrol stations.” It even affected public transportation since gas stations ran out of fuel.
So, if truck drivers stopped operating here in the States or other countries around the globe, would chaotic disorder ensue? In short, the answer is yes, especially while we’re in a pandemic.
The first 24 hours would hurt the medical field the most. Due to the lack of delivery, medical supplies would become depleted. Hospitals would run out of basic supplies such as syringes and catheters. Therefore, if the trucking delivery network stopped, hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies would quickly run out of necessities. Looking for a check from your employer or a gift from a relative? There’s a good chance you wouldn’t receive it since the USPS, FedEx, UPS, and other package delivery operations would cease. Also taking place within a day would be the onslaught of food shortages and service stations would begin running out of fuel. Further, without manufacturing components and trucks for product delivery, assembly lines would shut down, resulting in the unemployment of thousands of people.
And that’s just the beginning.
In a matter of two to three days, ATMs across the country would run out of cash. Thus, banks wouldn’t be able to process transactions. Garbage would begin piling up in both great metropolitans and suburban areas. Essential supplies such as bottled water and canned goods would disappear resulting in even more food shortages, especially when consumers panic and hoard foodstuffs (we’ve seen it during natural disasters). Service stations would completely run out of fuel for all vehicles, including the essential working trucks. Imported goods shipped from other countries from the sea would remain in ports.
Within a week, due to the lack of fuel, automobile travel would come to a standstill. Hospitals would begin to run out of oxygen supplies. By the fourth week, the clean water supply would be completely exhausted, and water would only be safe for drinking after boiling. You might be wondering, “What’s a truck driver have to do with the water supply?” Everything. Every 7-14 days, truck drivers deliver purification chemicals to water supply plants. Without such chemicals, water cannot be purified and made safe for us to drink. Inevitably, the water supply plants would run out of drinkable water in two to four weeks.
Thank a Trucker Today
The future’s indeed bleak when you think of a world without our all-important, heroic truck drivers. The magnitude of a ceased trucker operation would produce a trickle-down effect that would ultimately impact everything—right down to our physical health. This information isn’t meant to frighten you. Instead, we hope it bolsters your appreciation for truck drivers internationally. They’re carrying out a job that’s difficult even when we’re not enduring a global crisis. Next time you meet a local truck driver, be sure to thank him or her for their service—because, without them, we’d lack the necessities and comforts we’ve come to take for granted.
While being a truck driver is one of the highest-paying jobs that doesn’t require a college degree, living the trucker life doesn’t come without challenges. Considering the long hours, and weeks that truckers often spend away from their families, it’s a career path that might not suit everyone equally.
One of the things that many people don’t consider before getting involved in trucking is the effect it might have on your body— your skin to be specific. Reports have surfaced throughout the years that show how dramatic the impact of sun damage can be on a truck driver’s skin..
It’s likely you’ve seen the image that began circulating a couple years ago that showed a truck driver whose face looked very different on his left side compared to his right. The side that faced his window looked almost 10 years older, with heavy wrinkles that had resulted from years and years of damage from the sun.
If you’re a truck driver, there is a significant chance that you’ll have to manage your sun exposure over the course of your career— but just how big of an impact does this exposure have on your overall health?
A Potentially Deadly Illness
In addition to the superficial drawbacks, the trucker tan can cause serious health issues. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure is the leading cause of skin cancer, and it’s easy to get huge doses of UV radiation as a trucker. Research has found skin cancer to be the single most common form of cancer in the United States, with one in five Americans being diagnosed with the condition in their lifetime.
Despite popular belief that the numbers must be higher in southern states, the truth is quite the opposite. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data shows that northern states (like Washington, Oregon, and Vermont) have a higher rate of melanoma diagnosis than southern states on the whole. In fact, Texas is one of the states with the lowest number of skin cancer diagnoses per year.
New England Journal of Medicine’s Trucker Photo
To make a point and hopefully give you the incentive to take proper measures to protect yourself from the UV rays, here is the photo mentioned above. It was taken for a New England Journal of Medicine study on dermatoheliosis (aging that results from UV ray exposure). It shows a 69 years old trucker suffering from unilateral dermatoheliosis, the result of his 28 years spent behind the wheel.
Image by New England Journal of Medicine
For U.S. Drivers, the Left Side of the Body Is at Risk
UV exposure in the left arm is five times greater than the right for truck drivers. Exposure on the left side of the face is a staggering 20 times greater than the right. This results in wrinkles, sagging, and brown spots on the left side of the face.
Research also suggests that all types of skin cancer are more prevalent on the left side of the body. About 75% of melanomas are diagnosed on the left side, according to skincancer.net.
Hot or Cold Weather Doesn’t Matter
UV skin damage doesn’t progress only on hot summer days. To understand why that is, it’s important to understand how UV rays function.
There are two types of UV rays: UVA and UVB. The latter causes the skin to tan, but the former, UVA, has much more penetrating power and is the one that causes premature skin aging.
Windows and cloud cover aren’t effective in blocking out UV rays, and when there’s snow on the ground, the UVA rays are reflected by the snow (something skiers should be very familiar with). The information above indicates that drivers need to take measures to protect themselves from permanent skin damage, premature aging, and in the worst case, cancer.
How Do I Avoid UV Radiation Damage as a Truck Driver?
Sunscreen is the go-to way to prevent sun damage to the skin. Sadly, it’s often underutilized by truckers. It’s strongly advised to put a layer of sunscreen on before every trip, whether it is up North or down South. Even though you may not be seeing any significant damage, you risk premature aging and skin cancer in the long run.
Wear Long Sleeve Shirts, Hat, and Sunglasses
When it comes to sun damage, it is all about layers of protection. Wearing clothing that covers more of your body will naturally provide more layers of protection. A long-sleeved shirt is an obvious choice here, but if you do not stand wearing one during the summer, get a sun-protective sleeve for your driving arm.
The same goes for sunglasses – get ones comfortable to wear while offering protection for your eyes.
Keep the Window Up
Many truckers tend to drive with their windows rolled down because it feels refreshing – but it is more dangerous than you thought. It is even more dangerous if you prefer to drive with the arm on the window ledge, as it will be directly exposed to sunlight.
Avoid Driving in Peak Sunlight Hours
If your route allows for driving outside peak hours, we suggest going for it. Peak hours vary from state to state; however, it has generally been taken to be from 10 a.m. to around 2 p.m.
Get Your Windows Tinted
Some types of window films have been proven to offer the same protection as sunscreen. Additionally, tinted windows will keep the temperature lower inside the cab, reduce the glare effect, and provide some additional privacy during sunny days.
However, a disclaimer is in order here: Tinted windows are illegal in some states, so be sure to check the state’s laws before getting your truck windows done. Untinted UV window shields are an alternative option that can be used everywhere, however.
Get Frequent Check-Ups with a Dermatologist
If you’ve been on the road for some time, it’s likely you’ve been affected by UV rays to some degree. The obvious signs are permanent tan lines on your body, tick patches of skin, rapid face aging, freckles, and appearance of moles. Scheduling frequent check-ups at a dermatologist will give you peace of mind and guidance to protect your health and youth.
Although trucking has its pros and cons, driver health will always be an issue. Plenty of drivers don’t pay attention to their well-being until it is too late, but that doesn’t have to be your fate. Sun damage is only one of the health issues truckers face every day on the road, and it only takes a little extra effort to increase your quality of life on the job.
Guest post written for Mission Financial by Mile D. from TruckerJobUSA.com
Why America is Thanking Truckers During the Coronavirus
Truck drivers have been working around the clock to help support the shifting demand for food, medical supplies, and other essential items during the Coronavirus pandemic. The government instruction to stay at home whenever possible, has had a sizable impact on the American economy. One result of so many people staying home, and non-essential businesses being closed, is that demand for certain items like retail products have been in steady decline. This has created an issue of one-way supply-chain flow, meaning that freight companies can easily load and fill 18 wheelers all the way up at manufacturing hubs across America, but don’t have anything to pick up once they arrive at smaller towns and cities. This causes trucks to be half-empty, or totally empty on their return trips, creating huge efficiency losses for shippers and freight companies. This has truckers working longer, harder hours— something that Americans desperately need, are respectful of, and thankful for.
People Everywhere Take Note of Trucker’s Contributions
American citizens have been reaching out all over the country to express their gratitude and support for everything that truck drivers have done to aid the country in this difficult time. Many social media users are using the hashtag “thankatrucker” to reach the drivers on the road with positive words, or offers to repay the truckers for their hard work. While most drivers have experienced increased difficulty on the road as a result of many restaurants and rest stops being closed, there are many establishments that are doing their part to make sure truckers can continue to work in relative comfort. Those that have taken steps to ethically resume operation with COVID-19 in mind are using social media to tell truckers that they’re open for business, and in some cases, hoping to repay truck drivers for all of their hard work with free food and shelter.
The Iowa Motor Truck Association provided 1,000 complimentary boxed lunches for truck drivers last week, at two different weigh stations on I-80. The distribution was set up as a “drive through/drive by” scenario to comply with CDC guidelines, enabling the Truck Association to do some good for truckers at work without risking worsening the pandemic. Texas residents offered free takeaway bar-b-que to truckers in their area, serving dozens until their supplies ran out. On Interstate 40 in Jackson, Tennessee, local residents handed out box lunches with sandwiches to truckers on the road.
What Truckers Do to Keep America Going
Most people have seen first-hand the impact that the pandemic has had on the supplies at their local grocery. Stockpiling behavior has resulted in an absence of non-perishable food, sanitation items, and toilet paper on many supermarket shelves— leaving some people who didn’t make it to the store in time low on essential supplies. This has greatly changed how the American supply chain functions, as there’s suddenly a huge increase in demand for emergency medical supplies like masks, ventilators, and soap. These items need to be transported from manufacturers to medical treatment centers, while the raw materials required (paper, plastic, and alcohol, for example) need to reach the factory in time for production to resume on track.
The Truck Driver Experience During COVID-19
This has resulted in huge changes to the trucker way of life. The Department of Transportation has taken a great number of steps to ensure that truckers get to stay on the road, which include allowing drivers delivering essential supplies to stay on the road for longer periods of time. This is great for Americans, but dangerous for truck drivers overall, unfortunately. Many truck drivers don’t feel as if they have a choice in the matter and are very concerned about contracting COVID-19.
In an email, one truck driver stated that the pandemic “has been pretty difficult for [him] as a truck driver because truck stops aren’t stocked with cleaning supplies. Because he comes into contact with people all over the western United States, his anxiety level has been growing since he’s down to his last half-bottle of hand sanitizer.” According to a study by the American Center for Disease Control, 38% of truckers don’t have health insurance, meaning that it’s likely they’ll receive inferior care compared to those who have insurance and potentially suffer significant financial hardship if the contract the virus.
How You Can Help America
The country is still facing a national shortage of truck drivers, making it a perfect time to do your part and become an owner/operator. If you’ve lost your job due to the Coronavirus, it might be worth considering helping America stay afloat by joining the freight industry. Unemployment is at an all time high for recent decades, making it especially important for the labor force to shift towards industries that are thriving in the epidemic.
If you’re interested in getting started as an owner/operator, contact us to get on the road to financial independence. If you’re interested in helping other truck drivers, don’t forget national truck driver appreciation week, and make sure to reach out to the truck drivers in your community— many are in need of food, shelter, or just good conversation. From all of us at Mission Financial, thank you to all the truck drivers at work in Americ
According to the United States Bureau of Transportation Statistics, as of March 2019, trucks traveling between the United States and Canadian borders and between the United States and Mexican borders carried 62.8% of all transborder freight, representing a value of $67.4 billion.
According to the American Trucking Association, domestically, trucks carry nearly 71% of all the freight tonnage moved within the United States and that percentage will most likely increase. Trucks deliver the California produce that you buy at your local grocery store, the Mexican avocados you use to make guacamole, the huge machinery and equipment used in commercial construction, the material used to build houses, and the cars you buy at your local dealership. There are many facets of our economy that rely on the trucking industry.
Military Veteran Skills Valued by the Trucking Industry
Continued economic growth leads to continued growth in transportation, especially in respect to long-haul trucking. As luck would have it, there are many skills often found in military service veterans that closely parallel those required and valued by the commercial trucking industry, according to Roadmaster Driving School. Here are the top reasons why military veterans are well-prepared for a career in the trucking industry.
Aware of Surroundings
Driving a big rig requires you to be aware of your surroundings at all times; in the military, this is referred to as situational awareness. You need to know where you are and exactly where others are relative to you. You also need to be aware of impending weather changes, changing road conditions, and detours.
The trucking industry values veterans’ abilities to be effective and efficient when accomplishing tasks. Performing logistics tasks such as route planning efficiently and effectively help keep costs in check.
Ability to Adapt
Closely related to situational awareness is adaptability. As in the military, conditions can change and evolve faster than you realize. You must be able to adapt to all sorts changes – weather, other drivers’ actions, and road conditions are just a few examples.
All military branches focus on building and maintaining both physical and mental endurance because your life, as well as the lives of your squad, depend on being able to keep your eyes on the prize for extended periods of time. When driving a long-haul route, which can often last several weeks, you must be able to stay focused and fresh. As a veteran, you’ll definitely have an advantage in this domain.
Sense of Responsibility
The military teaches the importance of taking responsibility and being accountable for your actions and outcomes. The outcome that all professional long-haul truck drivers strive to meet is that of delivering their shipments to their destinations safely and on schedule.
Understanding of Teamwork
There’s an old saying: “There is no ‘I’ in team.” It’s a lesson the military quickly and effectively teaches. When your squad has to accomplish a mission, everyone must work for the betterment of the crew – even when you work independently and alone. The same holds true in the trucking industry. Teamwork from everyone involved in a successful delivery – you, the dispatcher, the operations manager – is a must.
Respect for Others
Respect is highly valued not only within the military, but within the trucking industry and every aspect of life. Respecting everyone you encounter on the job will go a long way, and respect will come back to you in return– in spades – and will help you advance further in the industry.
Military Experience Offers Advantages to Truck Drivers
If you drove a heavy vehicle while in the military, you already have an advantage over most civilians. If you have a military CDL, you can waive the civilian CDL skills test, which is typically required to obtain a license. If you worked with hazardous materials, you could qualify for higher-paying loads. G.I. Bill benefits may cover weeks-or months-long training programs offered by the best truck driving companies for veterans. You can also get paid via a stipend to learn your new driving skills in these military apprenticeship programs.
The personal qualities and life skills obtained from military training make veterans the among the safest and most sought-after drivers on the road. Regardless of the reason you joined the military, you supported and defended your country. As a professional truck driver, you can continue to support your country because without professional drivers, the country’s economy, its lifeblood, will cease to flow. Your work will help keep your country’s economy vibrant and alive. Get pre-approved for your semi-truck loan and get out on the road today.
No matter how much experience a driver has, harsh winter conditions can present a range of challenges on the road. From slick road surfaces to limited visibility, commercial truck drivers have to be ready for anything. Winters in the Northeast and Midwest are especially brutal, and almost always result in blizzards and multiple feet of snow on the ground. Even though February is half-way over, the cold temperatures and icy roads will still be here for a while. Thankfully, there are many things drivers can do to stay safe even in the worst winter months. Here are some things every trucker can do to keep themselves and other drivers safe this winter.
Pack for the Winter
Any trip in winter weather starts with preparation. Before ever starting your truck’s engine, make sure you have everything to stay warm and safe no matter what happens. Make sure you have the tools and supplies to keep your truck in shape including a flashlight, extra windshield washer fluid, chains, a bag of salt or sand, bungee cords, and a windshield scraper. For yourself, pack a reflective vest, blankets, a hat, a few pairs of waterproof gloves, a scarf, and thermal socks. You will also want boots with good traction and enough food and bottled water to last a full day.
Do a Circle Check
Before you hit the road, be sure to do a circle check and make sure everything is functioning properly. Ensure the wipers, lights, brakes, tail lights, washer fluid, and wiper motors are all in working order and ready for the trip. It is also important to make sure your mirrors and lights are clean and free from snow or ice while traveling. Keeping them clear will help you see what is around you and also allow you to be seen by other cars.
Keep Your Gas Tank Half Full
During severe winter conditions, getting stuck on the road is a real possibility. If you run out of gas and have to wait inside the cabin, you are putting yourself in a potentially dangerous situation. Be sure to keep your tank half-full at all times to avoid getting stranded in the snow.
Keep Your Distance from Other Vehicles
Highway traffic can often seem to travel in groups down the road. During harsh weather conditions, make sure you keep plenty of distance between you and the other vehicles. This can help everyone avoid an accident if a vehicle suddenly swerves or hits black ice. While it may be impossible to avoid other cars altogether, be especially careful to leave space between you and the truck in front of you. This will give you adequate time to break in necessary.
Use Good Judgement
Especially during the holidays, truck drivers are under huge pressure to get their shipments to their destinations. Even in the worst weather, truckers can be tempted to take the risk to make their deliveries on time. However, it is important to remember that no load is worth your life. Use good judgement and make the right call. If the snow is too dense or the highway is covered in black ice, do not take the risk. Park your truck and wait for the weather to blow over, even if it means your shipment will be late.
Practice Good Communication
Staying aware of weather forecasts and communicating with other drivers about upcoming storms or weather advisories is essential to staying safe on the road. PetroChoice’s Vice President of Human Resources Marilena Acevedo said, “Communication is key, and we keep an open line of communication with all of our drivers. When we are expecting a big storm, our leadership gets involved, and we may start a conversation a few days before to make sure we have a plan in place,” she said. “We do not want to be caught in the middle of an event without a plan. Planning is important to make it through a bad storm without too much trouble.”
Winter weather can be intimidating and certainly should not be taken lightly. However, with the right tools and preparation, you can stay safe and warm all winter long.
The impact of the trucking shortage and how it can be fixed has been the primary topic of the trucking industry since the shortage began. To help fill more trucking positions, many trucking companies have upped the annual salaries they offer. In fact, a study published in 2018 revealed that the median salary for a truck driver has risen 15 percent since 2013. That is an increase of $45,000 to $53,000 per year. For a private fleet driver, the average salary has increased around 18 percent, which means these drivers are now taking home over $86,000 a year. However, even higher salaries are not enough to recruit the number of truckers needed to end the shortage.
Trucking Industry Must Meet Millennial Demands
As long-term truckers begin to retire, it is clear that the only hope of hiring enough drivers to sustain the industry is to meet the unique requirements of the millennial workforce. These workers, born between the 1981 and 1996 are not just after high-paying jobs. Instead, they are far more concerned with a job’s work-life balance potential. Work-life balance is so important to this new generation of workers, that it has surpassed compensation as the main factor a person considers when applying for a job.
In fact, a recent survey on the topic shows that 64 percent of workers said a work-life balance is the most important factor for job satisfaction, followed by job security (59 percent) and then compensation (54 percent.)
Creating a Healthy Work-Life Balance in the Trucking Industry
Trying to create an appealing work-life balance within the trucking industry can seem challenging. The long hours of driving, weeks away from home, and the not-so exotic locations along the highway can all be deterrents to the next generation of truck drivers.
Some industry experts ponder if requiring truckers to only drive regionally would be a valid solution to the problem. Instead of one trucker taking a haul across the country, truckers could trade off at designated stops, ensuring that every driver is able to make it home for dinner each night.
However, this solution may cause more harm than good. Alternating truckers and transferring loads between trucks would increase time and expenses for each haul. This difference in price could mean a jump in price on groceries and consumers goods as well.
How Drivers Can Improve Their Lives on the Road
While no work-life balance solution has been created, there are a variety of things truckers can do right now to improve their work-life balance. Here are a few things truckers can do every day to improve their quality of life on and off the road.
When driving down a seemingly endless highway for hours on end, it can be easy to zone out and go into autopilot mode. Keeping your mind stimulated is key to enjoying your travels instead of counting down the minutes until you arrive at your next stop. Luckily, there are plenty of audio-based ways to keep your mind engaged while you drive.
- Audiobooks: Audiobooks are a great way to catch up on the latest titles while you’re on the road. With the average book giving you up to 8-13 hours of audio, even just one audiobook can keep you entertained through a long night’s drive.
- Music: Listening to the radio can be a great way to stay engaged and entertained during a long trip. However, if the radio has too many commercials or plays the same songs over and over, there are a variety of better options out there. With new advancements like Satellite Radio and streaming services on your phone, you can start a station that only plays your favorite artists.
- Podcasts: Podcasts are another great way to stay entertained during long trips. Now, there are podcasts covering just about every topic from true crime, news, fishing, sports, and anything else you can imagine. Keep your mind engaged by getting hooked on a new story, laughing along with a comedy podcast, or learning new things about your industry or hobbies.
Trucking obviously requires a lot of sitting still. Sitting in one position for hours can take a toll on your neck, back and legs. However, taking periodic breaks to work out your muscles and burn some calories can help both your body and mind. Whether it involves stretching, going for a jog, doing some push-ups, or taking a long walk, find a small routine that works for you. Getting some exercise in also releases endorphins to help keep you happy and comfortable when you get back in the truck.
Work Hard and Play Hard
When you are finally home after a few days or weeks away, be sure to soak up all the time you have with your family or friends. It can be easy to get bogged down with a long list of chores that need to be done or errands you need to run. Those things are important, but if you don’t allow yourself to have some fun with your kids, enjoy your favorite homemade meals, or go on a date with your spouse, your entire time at home can seem like even more work. Remember what makes your job as a trucker worth it and be sure to give those things and people the time they deserve.
When you are back on the road, be sure to take a little bit of home with you. Take a picture of your family to put on your dash, and bring along some of your favorite homemade snacks for the road. Also, don’t forget to stay in contact with the ones you love. A daily phone call home can go a long way with keeping you connected to your family.
Having a healthy work-life balance as a trucker may be difficult at times, but it is not impossible with the right habits. In the future, commercial trucking companies will have to have more of an emphasis on balancing work and life to appeal to millennials.