The holiday season is still a ways off, but people are already thinking about packages. With packages comes trucking. Whether they order gifts from brick-and-mortar stores or online, customers still depend on truckers to drive their treasures over long distances in time for Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. Whether you’re a new trucker or a veteran of the road, here’s what you need to know to prepare for the holiday season.
Use Your Support System
The hours involved in trucking are one of the hardest parts of the job. Many truckers miss holidays with their families because they’re on the road making deliveries. Those who do make it home often have to leave on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to complete a job. This is physically tiring and extremely frustrating for truckers, their spouses, and their children.
If you’re a trucker with a family, let your spouse and other loved ones know how much you love and need them. Make holiday plans after deliveries, or try to coordinate traditions around your schedule. Make sure you get enough sleep even if the house is full of relatives and other visitors. Call, email, or Skype if you can’t be there for the big events.
Additionally, stay in touch with other drivers and dispatchers. They know the emotional downsides of trucking life better than anyone and can provide encouragement. If your company hosts a holiday party, plan to go, if possible. If not, maybe you and a few other employees can get together for dinner or drinks at a designated truck stop or hotel. Keep the conversation light, play games, sing carols, or watch TV. You’ll be surprised how much merrier the holidays feel.
Many drivers go out of their way to get home for Christmas. Although this seems like a good idea, it’s usually counterproductive. If you don’t stick to your routes, your fuel costs will increase. Also, you may run into unplanned weather problems, road construction, or traffic jams. Use your GPS to your advantage, but stay in touch with dispatchers and other truckers to determine the best routes home.
The holidays present a unique set of driving hazards. Early sunsets lead to many hours of driving in the dark. In several areas, accident rates increase, as do DUI and DWI rates. Stay safe no matter where your route takes you. Get an early start on deliveries, if possible, and do not try to drive when sleepy. Instead, pull into a hotel or sleep for short periods at a truck stop or on the side of the road. Do not drink or smoke, either while driving or when taking a break.
Before making holiday deliveries, recheck your insurance policies. Your company should carry minimum coverage for your state. In most cases, that’s at least $750,000. If you do have an accident, this protects you if you are found at fault. It will also help pay your medical and mechanical bills if you or your vehicle are injured. Additionally, double-check your licenses and your company’s authority contracts. If these are not up-to-date, speak to your supervisor immediately.
Take Care of Yourself
The mental strain of driving during the holidays also takes a toll on physical health. During this season, you may be tempted to overindulge in junk food or let exercise routines lapse. These quick fixes will cost you in the long run.
Make the effort to buy healthy food. Better yet, bring your own from home. Raw and dried fruits or vegetables, vegetable chips, trail mix, and cheeses are all good choices. Stretch frequently or do quick workouts, like sets of sit-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks, or crunches. If time permits and there is a fitness center near a truck stop or hotel, get in a full workout. Get adequate sleep, too. Bringing your own sleeping bag, pillow, or sleeping mask will help tremendously. Don’t rely on sleeping pills since they will affect your driving ability.
Watch the Weather
By this, we don’t mean tuning in to the Weather Channel. Most truckers will tell you it’s notoriously inaccurate. Instead, stay up-to-date with newspaper forecasts or the National Weather Service website. Check the weather frequently for specific routes, even if you won’t get there for a week. Also, don’t rely on weather patterns. You may think it never snows in the Southeast, but a freak blizzard could hit Memphis any time. Similarly, snowy, icy New England may be dry when you get to certain areas. Stay informed and safe.