Thursday, August 23, 2012

Driver Support

And, no, I'm not talking about the folks at the company the driver calls in to. I'm talking about the family at home.  Those who wait patiently and most times worriedly for their driver to come home.  Especially the spouse or significant other. Or even the good friends who check the mail for the team or the single driver out on the road.

As a previous driver myself, I know what it's like to be out on the road. It's a hard life. It's a good life and I enjoyed the travel and the work.  But it's long hours and oft times lonely miles. It's a cold jog through the snow or sleet from the cab to the truck stop, or the soaked rag from wiping the sweat off the face while winding landing gear on a blacktop in 110 degree heat.  It's the waiting, without a load, knowing a budget has to be met and a family supported. It's thankless, ruthless shippers or receivers (not all, but some) sitting in their heated or air conditioned buildings complaining when the driver won't take more than the weight allowance, or when a driver is 15 minutes late due to a 20 car pile-up on the Interstate.  It's the adrenaline rush when a small car whips out in front of an 80,000 lb rig on the highway and suddenly stops. It's wrong directions and a driver suddenly facing a 12-foot bridge on a two-lane road, at rush hour. It's the Owner/Operator with a sudden and very expensive equipment breakdown.  It's the judgmental attitude stereotyping of the ignorant that all drivers are overweight, lazy, dirty, selfish and rude (though, sadly, some are). It's the impatient and intolerant who don't want the trucks on the road, but are the first to complain when what they want isn't at the store or shop.  It's the missing of family and friends to get what needs to be got to where it needs to go. On time.

Being the spouse of a trucker is not easy, either.  It's especially difficult for the kids, not seeing dad or mom for weeks at a time.  The separation, the worry, knowing all that goes on, out on the roads of America.  I have it pretty lucky, my driver spouse is local (mainly because of my health issues, he has to be close to home) but we've had to deal with long separations and him being out on the open road.  And we've had the "holier than thou" attitudes from those who think truckers and their families are less than dirt.   But we strive to support our driver. We strive to make the best of the times they are home.

Supporting your Driver.

1. This reminds me that one of the sub titles I had come up with was "the care and feeding of your truck driver."  One of the ways I support my driver is to make sure he is healthy. In order to be effective in any job, one has to be healthy.  And I mean healthy in all aspects - mentally and physically.  He knows we support him by our positive attitudes and understanding.  I do my best to provide him with the support and the "tools" he needs to be healthy in his very demanding job.  And yes, I am a homemaker, but I have done this, with an over-the-road driver (kinda like being a single mom), while working a demanding, full time job, plus a part time job outside the home as well (with a one-hour-one way commute).  And raising/homeschooling his child, a special needs child with Asperger's. and taking care of a home and household budget.  All this with Parkinson's, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis, and for a long time, walking with a cane.  It's the same mentality that makes a person keep going when a single parent, going to college and working full time - at the same time.

I share all this to show it can be done. In all this, I make time to support my driver. A question came up regarding the book, about how is a busy spouse supposed to deal with all this cooking for their driver? Can't it be "quick and easy?" If there is one thing I know, it's cooking. I've been doing it for over 40 years. With real food, not canned/boxed/pre-prepared.  Society has come about with "quick and easy", fast food, ready in 5 minutes due to demand from people who just don't have time.  Unfortunately, whenever we seek a change in something, we usually have to compensate with a sacrifice elsewhere.  Quick and easy has sacrificed, for the most part, fresh and healthy. In my studies of health and the effects of "foods" on the body, so much we have created to save time has not so good affects on the body and health. Is it any wonder that the alarming increase in problems such as diabetes, heart trouble, obesity and other such ills have mirrored the increase in processed, additive/hormone  and sugar laden foods?  I'm not saying a trip to your favorite fast food joint or the occasional treat off the junk food isle once in a while is bad. But "quick and easy" has become more a habit than a necessity. I've done my best to come up with ways to save time while cooking, but not sacrificing good, wholesome foods.  You can have "quick and easy", or you can have "healthy foods" and learn time-saving ways to prepare them.

One of the ways we've made time for "better things" in our family, more time to cook or read or just spend time together, is to cut out television altogether. Am I saying TV is bad? No. Just one of those things that we can easily fall into and spend hours staring at, with no real value coming back. I love the History channel, and Animal Planet, and various other shows like Doctor Who. However, I've had to make choices - what is best for the family in regards to our budget (have you seen the cost of cable/satellite lately?) and mental/physical health of our family. Such as, I love to work out. It keeps me walking without a cane. Do I have time to work out? No, I make time. I budget my time as strictly as I do my finances. Because my health is important.  Even just cutting back can give us hours to do other things. We have the Internet, which provides us with news, information and entertainment. We have so many cultural and local things we can do - such as our weekly trips to the library and coming home with our upper limit of books.  There is always a way to find time.

2. Another question came up about over the road drivers and how to get them good food when away from home, weeks at a time.  Hey, this is one of the main reasons I wrote the book! A driver can carry foods and make them in the truck, or can take them from home. Unfortunately, there is only so much space a driver has for food, especially foods that need to be refrigerated or frozen. So, after a few days, what he/she has brought from home has been consumed.  Then what?  Buying prepared foods is not always healthy, and eating out all the time not only is potentially unhealthy, but expensive.  Prepared (quick and easy) and restaurants should be sometime fill-ins only when necessary. The exception, rather than the rule.

One of the ways we made sure our driver had good food, and this depends on where your driver goes, is to find a meeting place when they are "in town".  My driver at one time was out all week but didn't have enough room in his cooler to carry a week's worth of meals.  We came up with a plan to meet him at one of his receivers, or the truck stop within driving distance of our home.  We'd have meals made up and in the freezer, and would take as much as he could hold to him at the meeting place. This is where the bulk cooking and freezing session comes in real handy.   He'd call when he knew he would be near town and we'd arrange to meet, and pick up his "empties" to take home and clean. Yes, I did this while I was working both a full time and a part time job, and with a small child.

3. Above all, we remain flexible. We organize and plan our family, our time, our money (because truck drivers don't usually make scads of money as once thought and it's determined by loads and miles, no guarantees), and all aspects of our lives with a certain amount of flexibility and understanding that plans can change in a heartbeat. We rely on ourselves for our happiness, and choose, wisely, those things which make us truly happy and bring us the best rewards. It's all a matter of planning and organizing, which really doesn't require a great deal of time nor a college degree to implement.

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