With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, it’s more than a little appropriate to talk about the strain trucking can place on that most ancient of human emotions: love.
Thus, as ever-more ridiculous homages to Cupid starting floating about, the good folks RoadPro decided to delve into the many relationship issues endemic that can be endemic in the truck driving career.
Does absence really make the heart grow fonder or are relationships between over-the-road truckers and their partners doomed to fail?
While RoadPro’s team couldn’t find specific research into the health and longevity of trucker relationships, industry forums are full of talk about the hardships of having one member of a team be gone for weeks at a time.
There’s no doubt a trucking relationship faces special challenges: the driver is on the road, lonely, away from home and missing family events. The stay-at-home partner is also lonely and, if they share a household, saddled with all the household chores and dealing with any unexpected crisis.
That’s the kind of stress that can wreck marriages and other human relationships.
Kimberly Erskine, a marketer in New Jersey, recently ended her year-long relationship with a truck driver and explained her reasoning to RoadPro. “I broke up with my trucker because I was never much of a priority and I couldn’t trust him,” she said.
Based on her experience, she a tip for truckers in relationships:
“Let your partners know that, even though you can’t be there, they are still your priority. When you do have free time, you should want to use it to spend time calling your partner, talking with them and letting them know that you’re thinking of them,” she said.
New York psychoanalyst Dr. Claudia Luiz added that “mutual resentment” is often a big problem in trucking relationships.
“The hard part isn’t when the trucker is away. People can deal with missing each other,” she explained. “The hard part is when the trucker comes home.”
That’s when the stay-at-home partner can resent a returning trucker’s disruption of household routines, Luiz said, while the truck driver can resent the partner’s demands on precious downtime.
“That can make the short time a couple does spend together hard on both of them,” she explained.
That’s why trucking couples need to recognize and address these resentments. “You have to find your comfort zone with the separation – and the together time,” Luiz stressed.
To that end, RoadPro tapped the experiences of its Pro Driver Council drivers in terms of gaining some hard-won relationship advice to share.
Henry Albert, owner of Albert Transport in Statesville, N.C., cuts to the chase by bringing his wife, Karen, on the road with him five to 10 times a year for a week at a time so she can experience what he deals with first hand. The rest of the year, she handles business operations from home.
“There’s nothing like seeing each other in person,” Albert explained, adding that when he is home the couple make certain to spend time together.
Illinois owner-operator Thomas Miller, who drives for Prime Inc., said regular communication is the key for him.
“My wife and I speak several times a day. We try to keep our lines of communication the same as it would be if I was home daily,” he emphasized. “We use basically all forms of communication: phone calls, text messages, e-mail, FaceTime, Facebook — you name it, we use it.”
Joanne Fatta, who hauls produce in Pennsylvania, and Maggie Riessen, who owns Missfit Trucking, a livestock hauler in Galva, IA, said having a partner who’s also a truck driver can help.
“My husband hauls livestock, too,” Riessen noted. “We don't always get to run together, but it's always nice to call and talk with him a couple times a day. I don't like to talk all day long. It gives a chance for him to miss me and something new to talk about other than work.”
Even being a local trucker can be hard on relationships, Fatta said.
“My experience as a woman trucker, over the past 15-plus years, is most men do not like their partner waking up earlier than they do and having to be in bed very early and working more hours than they do,” she stressed.
“So appreciation and respect for the difficult, stressful job we both do is what our partner can do to help keep relationships strong,” Fatta added.
Albert, who’s been a driver since 1983, emphasized that cell phones and social media means there’s just no excuse for drivers not communicating regularly with partners.
“It couldn’t be easier,” he said. “And it matters – a lot.”
Something to ponder as the roses and heart-shaped boxes of chocolate fly off the shelves this weekend.