Life on the open road offers a lot of freedom, but what does a day in the life of a truck driver really look like?
With no boss over your shoulder, 40 tons of heavy equipment under you, and scenic views on all sides, the life of a truck driver has a certain magical quality. To the regular office worker, that can sound appealing. So appealing that many drivers are former 9-5ers who opted for a career in transportation.
But before you quit your office job for a life on the open road, a career driving trucks can profoundly impact how you live your life.
For example, most office jobs allow you to be home for dinner. If there is the occasional business trip, they are typically rare and don’t keep you from your friends and family for very long.
But for a trucker, the business trip is the job. Every route takes you hundreds or thousands of miles away from home and can last for days. And unless you’re driving with a partner, it will be you and the open road for long stretches of time.
In this article, we explore the reality of a day in the life of a trucker, for better or worse.
Organizing your schedule is a necessity
Organization and time management are essential to be efficient as a truck driver.
Drivers need to know what road conditions they are going to face. They constantly check the weather and track the situation before departure. They inspect their truck and complete all the essential safety checks before hitting the road.
Then, on the road, truck drivers are often tied to tight schedules. This means they should always be aware of potential delays such as slow vehicles and accidents. There are also external factors that they can’t control but still do their best to avoid — like extreme weather events and equipment failure.
Nevertheless, deliveries are expected to be on schedule, and truck drivers must make every effort to deliver the freight to their destination on time. Both freight carriers and drivers must carefully monitor time on the road. Carriers need to ensure they meet delivery times, and drivers must be mindful that they do not exceed their maximum hours of service. Federal law in Canada and the US limits a driver’s time on the road to a certain number of service hours.
In the US, truck drivers can be on duty for a maximum of 14 consecutive hours a day — including mandatory breaks or delays picking up or dropping off goods, but they can only drive 11 hours per day.
In Canada, truckers can be active up to 16 hours a day but have a maximum of 13 hours of driving time.
Most of ENERGY’s drivers work cross border lanes, so they must meet both countries’ regulations when crossing customs that day.
For example, knowing that a driver is leaving Canada and going to the United States, they are required to reduce their driving hours to a maximum of 11hrs. And coming back to Canada from the US means gaining two hours of driving time once they have crossed the border.
This requires the truck driver to calculate their route to complete the trip in the limited time frame that their hours-of-service permit.
Waking time will vary depending on the individual driver and their work requirements, but a trucker’s morning usually begins around 5 AM to 6 AM.
Generally, the earlier you wake up, the less likely you are to encounter traffic, which all truck drivers try to avoid the best they can.
Next comes the morning routine. It typically includes showering (at one of the operations centers or truck yards), drinking coffee, and eating breakfast. Drivers usually check the weather for the day as they eat — and contact their coordinator if necessary to plan the next step in their route. Later, they inspect the truck for problems such as flat tires, serious leaks, and trailer brake connections. Drivers typically fill up on fuel before hitting the road.
The rest of the morning typically goes with a few hours on the road before concluding with a stop at the rest stop for lunch. While driving, each trucker has their routine. Some like to listen to music, while others prefer to play audiobooks or podcasts.
Lunch is usually the first substantial break of the day, where truckers check in with their families and chat with other drivers who are also taking a break. Then, they hit the open road again for their next stretch until dinner.
However, driving long hours on straight highways can cause muscle tension and severe fatigue. Stops and breaks are crucial to staying focused and healthy.
Breaks and nighttime
Drivers must take a 30-minute break when they have driven for eight cumulative hours without at least a 30-minute interruption.
Getting out of the truck, walking, stretching, and appreciating a nice lunch or snack is essential to staying focused and ready for the rest of the driving day.
Unless they meet the docking deadline, truckers drive for about ten hours daily.
If it’s a multiday trip, truckers must find a place to rest for the night. Truck parking, which we have written about previously, can be challenging to find in some parts of the country. But if the driver organizes their time well, they likely can secure a spot in a well-maintained rest area or truck stop. Some truck stops go to great lengths to keep drivers happy by providing complete facilities with mechanic services, showers, and laundry.
At night, long-haul truckers sleep in the sleeper cab of their trucks. It’s a small room behind the driver’s seat where they can relax and rest whenever they stop.
Example of a sleeper cab. W990 76-Inch Mid-Roof Diamond VIT
Soon enough, they know their itinerary will end, and they will be back for some “home time.”
The life of a truck driver can be difficult and lonely, but it also comes with some great benefits. The sense of freedom is one of them: not working behind a desk, being able to admire beautiful views, and managing your break times all offer a sweet taste of independence that many office jobs lack.
If you’re interested in working with a reliable, end-to-end logistics company like ENERGY Transportation Group, visit our careers page for available opportunities.