A major concern for the new drivers on the forum is how to deal with the extended time away from home. Some single drivers ask if it is possible to meet someone on the road and make it work. Occasionally, we get comments from women asking how to help their men adjust, and once in a while we get the take charge woman who wants to catapult her man's career.
It is a naturally confusing time to have a significant other quickly removed from your daily routines, however, it can be dealt with if both people compromise and provide some understanding and compassion for the other person's needs. As both a driver and a former fiancee of an army infantryman who was constantly deployed, I understand the roles of both partners. And for you single drivers out there, I can also assure you that meeting someone on the road is quite possible.
In many cases, the new driver is the breadwinner of the family. This person, whether male or female, is under a great deal of stress to succeed in an industry where most fail. Couple this with weeks to months of training with little to no pay, and the stress to financially provide for the family builds on the anxiety to pass the CDL exam. If he/she fails the first time, the weight on the student's shoulder increases exponentially.
In contrast, the partner at home may be just as nervous about this new venture that will affect both of them, but suffers a total lack of control of the situation. The fear of being left alone to deal with household problems and decisions can be scary, and of course the emotional strain and the distance between you can create problems in communication and trust.
As with any relationship, some succeed and some fail. Before you contemplate signing up for cdl training, you need to have a serious talk with your partner as to what exactly each of you expect, and share all information about perspective employers with your partner.
Testing for the CDL exam was one of the most challenging experiences of my life. I had always excelled in anything I set my mind to, and I was in no way prepared for the frustration and humiliation I experienced. After all, I graduated with honors with a degree in Social & Human Services, as well as History & Political Science. I volunteered on Gubernatorial and Presidential campaigns, had lunch with a sitting President of the United States, wrote and published five books and audiobooks, and spent 18 years in the federal government.
So tell me, how is it that I could not figure out how the heck to maneuver that truck into the proper hole? Why could I not control the clutch and keep the truck from stalling? My high IQ was no help whatsoever! For the first time in my life, I truly felt learning impaired. Nothing clicked when it came to backing and when I finally thought I had it, I couldn't repeat the task.
The point is a new driver is going to feel like a total failure on some days, and like the King of the Mountain on others. When talking on the phone, that driver is going to seem as bipolar as a magnet. Did you ever play with two magnets as a kid and one will spin around and face the other way? That is exactly how fast a great day can turn bad. We think we have it, then we don't. Add in the longing to be with family and to cry on a wife's or hubby's shoulder, and that driver can easily lose perspective and become depressed.
One of the greatest advantages a new driver can have is one special person cheering him onward. In my case it was my brother. Just when I was about to quit, he reminded me of some of the people we knew who had been driving for years. Some were extremely intelligent, and some of them were complete morons who did nothing but complain. Some were great drivers, and others could not back into a dock very well even after years of experience.
My brother said, “If some of those guys can do this, then you have no excuse if you fail. You are much more ambitious than most of them.” That is an extreme statement, but poignant.
Millions of drivers have gotten their CDL's because getting it's about wanting it badly enough. It is about fighting for it, and doing whatever it takes to earn it. The job is both mental and physical, and drivers need the important people in their lives to be cheering them on to victory!
Yes, think of this as an athletic championship or a battle to be won. Either way, the comments and attitude of the partner at home can go a long way. Whether that person at home is positive or negative, that attitude will impact the driver's mental state, and possibly their career.
Understand that once on the road, the driver is going to be exhausted. After long hours of driving, and adjusting to various schedules, he might not know what time it is, what day it is, or even what state he's in. Teaming is even more crazy because you can go to sleep in Missouri and wake up in Texas! Time really flies.
It is important to understand that having only a limited time to talk, or forgetting to call at a certain time, has nothing to do with how the driver feels about his/her partner. Honestly, I forgot my own birthday until I saw a Happy Birthday message from my fleet manager on my Qualcomm. Eventually, the rookie learns to manage his time much better and the daily mistakes lessen. The frustration and constant anxiety dissipates. This is when he can focus more on home life. So be patient if he forgets a major milestone.
One of our forum members mentioned that during his first time home while training, the home environment felt foreign to him. He felt more like a visitor in his own home. Many people feel disconnected from their loved ones as they go on with “real world” experiences. This is perfectly normal, and neither of you are crazy. The driver's life now consists of truck stops, customers, and fast food joints. An occasional trip to Walmart is a welcomed treat, and it is possible the driver may envy those at home.
As time passes, home time and family life will soon fall into a rhythm. The important thing is for both parties to always communicate in a non-accusatory way. The driver feels guilty enough for leaving home, but feels this is the best way to support his family and possibly follow a life-long dream to see the world. The partner at home might feel left behind and perhaps neglected. It is imperative to have honest open discussions to keep the intimacy alive.
See also: Keeping The Family Close: Saying Sorry
The home partner needs to be patient, express his/herself in non-threatening tones, and try to understand that the “weirdness” is temporary. Talk on the phone and Skype as much as possible. Keep in mind that the sacrifices the driver is making is to better your family life. Include him in decisions and ask him for help as if he were home. Let's face it, men are problem solvers. Even having him tell you the best place to take the car for an oil change will make him feel needed and helpful.
When he returns, give him space and do not smother him. He will be absolutely exhausted and probably just drove 10 hours to get home. He's been excited about it all week but may need to relax and rest a bit before he jumps into husband mode.
Don't believe promises the driver makes about getting home, and stop him/her in their tracks if they try to make one. There is no way to keep a promise like, “I'll be home on Saturday” even with the best of intentions. Tire blowouts, mechanical issues, road closures, and weather could all delay the driver's arrival home. Delivery schedules get changed, loads get added to the schedule, and it is all out of the control of the driver.
Understand that all dates are tentative and try not to harp on missed home time. The good thing is that driver will be home soon, maybe a day late, but he'll be there. Any day can be special if you make it so. Celebrate those milestones when he gets home.
Drivers, this isn't just about you! That person at home who is cheering you on is going through that emotional roller coaster right along with you. You need to understand their fears and be compassionate as well. They are just as concerned about the electric bill and mortgage, as well as missing you beyond belief.
Women typically need to console people. When you call saying you are exhausted or sick, we want to massage your stress away or make some chicken soup. Not being able to do so can be heartbreaking and make us feel helpless and useless. I know women who do not feel safe sleeping at home alone for fear of burglars. So please take her concerns seriously when she expresses them. Do not dismiss her feelings, and understand it is the separation she doesn't like. She still cares for you.
See also: Holding Down The Fort
The more the person at home is dependent on the new driver, the harder it will be for both parties. This is not a judgment, it's a fact. My sister has been with her husband for forty years, since she was 15 years old, and she is so dependent on him that she has never had a driver's license. She has never traveled alone on a plane or bus, and it is perfectly normal for them.
I know there is no way that she nor her husband could survive being apart. Emotionally they could not handle it. And that is fine, trucking is not for them. Before a potential driver hops on that bus, he better make sure his/her partner can endure. It better be a decision that is made together, and you need to agree that trucking is for both of you.
Be sure not to make solid promises you know you cannot keep. Send an occasional e-card or text just as a “Thinking of You” type of gesture. Heck, send flowers or Godiva chocolates every once in a while. It just might help your loved one get through the loneliness and help smooth over the time away from you. If you can pay for video games, movies, or new toys for your truck, you can send your wife some flowers and a “Thank you for supporting me” message.
If the green-eyed monster of jealousy reared its head before a person entered trucking, you better expect that monster to make even more appearances once the student driver is on the road. An insecure partner can make your life a living hell.
For example, I know a guy who is in training and when his girlfriend heard the female GPS voice talking in the background, she yelled at him and didn't talk to him for four days! Distracted by thoughts of his relationship being in jeopardy, he forgot to watch that trailer and swiped a pole while making a turn.
Another girlfriend called her man's dispatcher because she could not contact him while he was driving through the mountains in Colorado. He had no phone signal, so this woman called dispatch with statements like, “Is he cheating on me? Is that why he isn't picking up the phone? Do you see his truck moving?” If this happens regularly, you have much bigger problems than passing that CDL exam. If it doesn't get better it could cause issues with your employer.
A man/woman who did not cheat at home is not going to do it on the road. But someone who cheated while home will most likely hook-up with strangers while traveling. This is not a trucking issue, it is a personality and reality issue. Get rid of the thoughts of a partner at home running around on you. It isn't happening if you chose an honest, dedicated partner.
The bottom line is that both partners must trust each other completely. That trust is not limited to sexual and emotional dalliances. The new driver must be trusted to handle his/her new job without interference from the home partner.
I remember one comment in the trucker's forum was from a wife who asked us if it was appropriate to contact her husband's dispatcher and set him straight about miles and pay. The answer is always NO! The driver must handle his/her business on his own. Last I checked, you need to be 21 to driver OTR, so we are all adults here and everyone must act like it.
Finding the right person and maintaining a relationship on the road is tough, but not impossible. One of our moderators used to team with her significant other, now they both train in separate trucks but take home time together. I tried meeting a guy, then when I stopped looking, he sorta just fell into my life. I was chatting with someone at a the terminal, and a guy at the next table heard me and laughed so hard he choked on his lunch. He said he just had to get to know me cause he thought I was hilarious. That was 8 months ago and we chase each other from coast to coast and meet up at the terminal when we can. Even though I am a company driver, I was able to spend nine days with him in December, and not one day of it was home time.
The advantage of meeting another driver is that both parties completely understand the situation. We are more understanding when plans don't go our way. We also appreciate the time we do have together more. Plus, we can talk on the phone our entire drive shifts, so we have more of a “together” feeling.
It's really cool when we can follow one behind the other on long trips. My guy and I ran from Denver to Salt Lake City over Vail in Colorado together. Even though we were in different trucks we experienced the scenery together, pointing out the ice and waterfalls. Believe it or not, this can happen more often than you know, especially if you are at the same company.
Another advantage of dating another trucker is the possibility of running team together. Who else would you trust with your life but your partner?
In the end, it comes down to communication, respect, trust, and understanding. Be good to each other, support each other, and do not waste any time you have together. Make it all quality time.
Drive safely to get back home soon!
Want to share in the discussion? Let us know your over the road relationship experiences.