Category: essential worker

How To Avoid Truck Driver Burnout

how-to-avoid-truck-driver-burnout

Driver burnout is a real problem that many drivers don’t want to admit experiencing.  The long hours, loneliness,  stress,  traffic, all of it can get to a driver and make him want to leave a job that he once enjoyed.

Causes of Driver Burnout

Usually, it’s not the job itself that leads to driver burnout but rather, specific aspects of it.  

Lack of Real Downtime.  Instead of being able to do something relaxing during downtime at home, time off is usually spent in the cab of the truck or in truckstops.  A day off on the road is not the same as a day off at home.  

Drivers Are Overworked.  Because drivers are paid by the mile, they need to be constantly moving to make money.  Even with HOS restrictions, drivers spend long hours without breaks to meet strict deadlines.

Lack of Sleep.  Sleeping on the road can be tough.  Truck stops can be noisy and sleep schedules irregular.  Often a driver’s sleep habits are just sleeping whenever they can.  Not getting a full 8 hours a night can lead to problems with both mental and physical health.

Signs of Driver Burnout

Signs of driver burnout may be brushed off as being tired and needing a vacation but it can be more serious than that.  Some signs include irritability, insomnia, getting sick frequently, exhaustion, obesity, and signs of depression.  One of the most obvious signs of driver burnout is not wanting to drive anymore.  A burnt-out driver may dread getting behind the wheel of their truck, a job they used to love.  Once they do get in the truck, they may take frequent breaks or spend lots of time at truck stops, not for rest but as a way of avoiding the job.  The next step is quitting altogether.  

How To Get Over It

Driving a truck is not an easy lifestyle.  If there was a time that the job made you happy and you’d like to get that feeling back, you may be able to overcome your burnout and enjoy driving again.

Take regular days off each week.  This may not be easy but if you can swing it, having regular days off at home will give you something to look forward to each week and your mind and body will get used to the routine.

While on the road, take breaks.  Again, it may not always be easy, but it’s important for your mind and body to relax during a hectic day.

Try a regular route.  Having a regular route with regular stops can help your body get into a regular pattern of sleep.  

Take time off.  A vacation, even if it’s spent at home can recharge your batteries and give you something to look forward to.   It’s better than being forced to take time off because you’ve burned out and made yourself sick.

Make time for exercise.  Regular exercise will help fight obesity, depression, and a whole bunch of other health problems.

Eat healthy foods.  A healthy diet goes hand-in-hand with exercise to make your mind and body strong and healthy.  

Get a hobby.  Nourishing your interests will give you something to think about instead of only the job.  If it’s one that can be done in your truck, even better!  

Occupy your mind.  Listen to something stimulating like audiobooks or podcasts.  They’ll pass the time while entertaining you or teaching you something.    

Get help.  A therapist can help you work through your issues that may be causing your burnout and help you find the right path forward.

Driver burnout can ruin your driving career.  By taking a proactive approach and keeping some of the usual causes of driver burnout in check, you may be able to have a long and rewarding driving career without burnout.  

Direct Freight Services is a web-based load board that has many helpful features like full credit reports, load filtering, payment expectations, and broker authority information.  Whether accessed online or now through our easy-to-use Direct Freight Driver app, Direct Freight helps you find the right loads. Go to DirectFreight.com and start searching for loads.  We’re always here to bring you the high-quality loads you need!

Steps to Become an Owner/Operator

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To buy a truck or work for a carrier as part of their fleet is an essential question most truck drivers ask themselves at some point in their careers.  Both options have pros and cons and either choice could be a good career choice.

Advantages to Working For a Carrier:

  • The truck belongs to the carrier, and associated costs and maintenance are their responsibility.
  • Benefits like group health insurance and paid vacation time.
  • There’s less financial risk.
  • Less worry.  Your job ends when you’re done driving.
  • No overhead.  The money you earn is the money you get.  No need to pay for repairs, maintenance, etc.
  • It’s easier to quit your job to find a more suitable company.
  • No start-up costs other than your CDL.  Just get in the truck and go. 

Advantages of Becoming an Owner/operator:

  • More flexible schedule.
  • While it’s not always the case, there is a potential to earn more money.
  • Built-up equity in your truck.
  • Not sharing a truck with other drivers.  Some companies do this and you may be left cleaning up after someone else.
  • You’re your own boss.
  • There could be tax advantages.
  • The truck is customized to your liking.
  • More choice of loads.

 There is no right answer to the question, only what is right for you.  Do you want to be your own boss with all of the responsibilities that go along with it or do you prefer the security of working for someone else?  

Becoming an Owner/Operator

Before taking the steps to become an owner/operator, take the time to examine the pros and cons of each.  It’s a huge financial step.  There’s nothing wrong with spending your career working for someone else.  Once you’re sure you want your own truck, you can begin taking steps to make it happen.

Obtain your CDL.  You need that for the “operator” part of becoming an Owner/Operator.  Some people pay for their CDL by taking advantage of programs that some carriers have where they pay for your CDL as long as you agree to work for them for a specified time period.  If you do this, you’ll have to meet those obligations before becoming your own boss. 

Get Money.  Any business needs start-up money and yours will mainly be for buying a truck.  If you don’t have the money, you can take out a loan or lease a truck.  

Get Licensed and Registered.  If you plan to operate as an interstate (across state lines) carrier you will need a USDOT number to transport cargo.  You can obtain  a USDOT number by registering online through the Unified Registration Program on FMCSA’s (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) website.  You most likely will also be required to have an MC number which is your authority to operate, also found at FMCSA. There is a one-time filing fee of $300.  Depending on the weight of your truck, you may be responsible for paying the Heavy Vehicle Use Tax.  More details can be found here.   

Get Insured.  The FMCSA not only requires insurance, but it also requires different types of insurance depending on your load, i.e. hazardous, etc.  Of course, if you are planning on hauling hazardous materials, you must obtain a special endorsement for your CDL too.

Find Loads.  Once you’re legitimate and ready to roll, how do you get loads?  A good load board can help you find lucrative loads that will help your business get off the ground.  You can search by type of load and region, and because you’re in it to make money and not drive around an empty trailer, load boards can help you fill those deadhead miles to maximize your profits.  

Becoming an owner/operator isn’t for everybody.  It’s definitely something that you have to be in it for the long haul, so to speak.  If you have what it takes, owning and operating your own truck can be a profitable and rewarding career choice.  

If you’ve decided to become an owner/operator, Direct Freight Services is the only load board you’ll need.   Direct Freight is a full-service load board that allows truckers to find loads and companies to post their available loads. The Direct Freight website also has many useful features such as a mobile app, credit reports and scores, mile calculators, fuel price data, weather conditions, turn-by-turn truck-specific routing, and more.  To see everything Direct Freight has to offer Owner/Operators, go to DirectFreight.com today!

Sources:

https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/registration

https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/registration/get-mc-number-authority-operate

https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/hvut/mod1/whatishvut.cfm

Tips for Night Driving

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Night driving is a big part of driving a truck, especially if you’re a long haul driver or you make early, before-sun-rises deliveries.  Having fewer vehicles out on the road is a definite plus but there are many dangers that can come with driving at night.  

Dangers of Night Driving

Lower Visibility

Unfortunately, humans are not like cats and we don’t have night vision.  We can’t see as far at night as we can during the day which means we may not see an animal like a deer run out onto the road which is more common at night.  Add to that a slower response time and you’ve got an increased potential for an accident.  Even a mild rainstorm at night can decrease visibility significantly. 

You’re Sleepier

If you’re someone who doesn’t drive the same night route every day, your body will be tired when you’re driving at night.  It takes some time for your body to get on the natural sleep rhythm of being awake at night.  

Deliveries are More Dangerous

Night also brings with it an increase in criminal activity and the threat of being robbed for your money or  freight is a real danger. 

More Drunk Drivers

If you’ve driven a semi at night for any length of time, you’ve seen your fair share of drunk drivers on the road.  It’s important to be extra alert and aware of other drivers who may be impaired.   

Night Driving Can Be a Pleasure

Dangers aside, driving at night is preferable for some drivers.  They’ve pretty much got the road to themselves and don’t have to worry about traffic slowing them down.  While parking at night for over the road drivers is a constant challenge if you are doing deliveries in a city, it’s much easier to maneuver a truck through empty streets.  Road construction activity is usually at a minimum, and if there is nighttime road work, drivers usually breeze right through because there are fewer vehicles on the road.  And even with lower visibility, the views from the road at night can be breathtaking.

Tips for Safe Night Driving

If you’re driving at night, here are a few things you can do to ensure your safety and the safety of others on the road.  

  • Get enough sleep.  Try to get yourself on a regular daytime sleep schedule if you’re going to be driving a nighttime truck route.  Drowsy driving is a major problem in the trucking industry that leads to many fatal accidents.  Some tips on how to stay alert while driving can be found here.  
  • Increase visibility.  Make sure that your headlights are all in working order including high beams and that they’re not dirty.  Also, clean your windshield and dim your dashboard lights to improve your visibility.  Keep up with regular eye exams to make sure your eyes are doing the best job they can.  
  • Stay alert.  Don’t use your phone while driving or do anything else to distract you from being able to keep a close eye out for animals or drunk drivers.  
  • Use your high beams.  Instead of only using low beams when there is oncoming traffic, some drivers will just drive with their low beams on all the time.  High beams allow you to see further and you should use them when you can.
  • Look away from the lights.  Staring right into the headlights of oncoming traffic can be distracting and impairing.  Look at the lines of the road instead.  

Trucker Search is a vital tool for finding a great company to drive for.  On Trucker Search’s website, you can post your résumé as well as search the comprehensive database of companies looking for drivers.  It’s a great resource for any driver looking for a great place to work.

Low Rates During the Coronavirus Pandemic Are Hurting Drivers

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On May 1st, a convoy of more than 70 trucks gathered on Constitution Ave. in our nation’s capital to protest the low freight rates that are crippling an industry already damaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Rates have fallen to unsustainable lows with truck load rates down from an average of $1.79 per mile in Feb. 2020, to an expected $1.51 in May.  The protesters aren’t asking for changes in the rates but rather, more transparency when it comes to freight brokers.  Drivers have the same overhead they had before the virus hit―truck payments, insurance premiums, fuel costs, repair bills, etc. It is all still there.  Despite the lowered rates, many freight brokers are charging the same commission as before so the protesters are asking for more government regulation.  The drivers are asking that Congress require brokers to provide transparent transaction records upon service completion and eliminate clauses that keep drivers from accessing them.  

There have been some ease of restrictions for drivers who are hauling freight that’s considered essential, the 14-hour limit has been waived so the restriction doesn’t prevent necessities from being delivered quickly, but it’s not enough.  With the closure of bars, restaurants, and many stores, freight isn’t moving like it was before the pandemic so there are fewer available loads and many carriers and drivers, especially smaller operations, are really struggling.  Drivers who can find loads are barely breaking even.  With the major hit to the number of loads, drivers are finding it more difficult to fill deadhead miles and are returning with empty trailers.    For others, it’s more profitable to park their trucks.  

Of course, those who do get loads are opening themselves up to getting the virus.  With so many drivers prone to obesity and who smoke, they may be at greater risk for developing severe symptoms or even dying from the disease. Many owner/operators have chosen to stay home over contracting the virus driving through “hot spots” in states where the virus is more prevalent.  

As we gain control over the virus and the country begins to open up again, there may be lasting damage to the trucking industry.  Even when demand grows in this country, much of the freight comes from overseas, leaving us dependent on the re-opening of other countries so recovery may be slow getting off the ground.  When it does, there’s a real fear that after businesses begin to reopen and the demand for drivers climbs that many drivers will simply not return.  

The protesters in Washington, D.C. are looking for fairness, that if load rates are less during this time, freight broker rates will be less too.  They aren’t looking for Congress to step in and do something about the declining rates because, even with all the punches this virus has inflicted on the trucking industry, there’s still the belief that with recovery of the American people, recovery in the economy, recovery of our nation, will come the recovery of the trucking industry.  

Direct Freight Services is a web-based load board that can make finding profitable loads easier.  It has many helpful features like full credit reports, load filtering, payment expectations, and broker authority information.  Whether accessed online or now through our easy-to-use Direct Freight app, Direct Freight helps you find the right loads. Go to DirectFreight.com and start searching for those high-quality loads today!    

Truck Drivers Are More Essential Than Ever

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One thing the coronavirus has made abundantly clear is that certain occupations simply cannot take a break because they are too vital to the people of this country to keep everything moving. Of these, doctors, nurses, and other workers in the health industry are the heroes fighting the enemy on the front line for those who have contracted the virus. Then there are those who are keeping the shelves stocked so we have food and other necessities to keep the rest of the country going during the crisis. We’re grateful for all of them.

However, there’s one group of workers behind the curtain that make all of that possible, those who supply food for the shelves and medical supplies for hospitals―truck drivers.

Truck drivers truly are the backbone of our country and without them, everything would grind to a halt. Throughout the pandemic, drivers are putting in long hours and facing possible exposure to the virus, all so essential workers can do their essential work.   Our entire infrastructure relies on them.

Difficulties on the Road

Life on the road in the shadow of the coronavirus has become more complicated for drivers.  Essential freight is still moving so for drivers hauling food and hospital supplies, work is plentiful. But with the construction industry coming to a halt, and stores and small businesses deemed non-essential shuttering their doors, drivers who haul goods to these businesses are struggling.

For drivers still out on the road, dine-in restaurants at truck stops have closed, leaving weary drivers with no place to relax and recharge outside of their truck.  Some have been able to leave their showers and laundry services open for drivers. Some have closed altogether. With fast-food restaurants closing their dining rooms, drivers have had to adjust their eating habits. Trucks don’t fit through the drive-thru lanes and if they park and walk up to the window, some refuse to serve them. Palmdale Sheriff’s office tweeted:  “If you happen to be sitting in your car eating because the dining room is closed, & see a truck driver attempt to pull on a door, please ask if you can buy them a meal. Most places do not allow walk ups, and their rigs usually don’t fit. We owe them that much!”

Because meals are unpredictable, more drivers are now bringing their own food on the road and preparing it with their own microwaves, cookers, and coffee makers.

Relief May Be On the Way

A proposal by Senate Democrats for a COVID- 19 Heroes Fund would provide eligible front line workers up to $25,000 in hazard pay for those deemed essential during the crisis such as medical workers, truck drivers, grocers, transit workers, and essential federal employees. While still in its early stages, this proposal speaks for many who believe something needs to be done for the dedicated workers who put themselves in harm’s way every day.  In the meantime, we wait for the curve to flatten.

Through this crisis and the economic recovery when it follows, drivers are unsung heroes.  So when people talk of the heroic front line, remember where their supplies are coming from.  And the next time you reach for a new roll of toilet paper, thank a truck driver!

Direct Freight Services is an essential tool for shippers, freight brokers, and carriers that allows users to post or find trucks and includes many features that will help move freight smoothly and efficiently.  Go to DirectFreight.com today to find out more.

Sources:

https://www.democrats.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Heroes%20Fund%20FINAL%204.7.20.pdf