As I was lamenting to my wife Lesli about what I should talk about this week, she commented (somewhat tongue in cheek), “How about all the holidays and family events that truckers miss?” At first, I laughed then I thought that maybe it is a subject that needs a little more light on it. As truckers, we focus on what our job is. We focus on our duties but often times we don’t give enough credit to the “support crews”. We all have different circumstances but what is overlooked is the price our loved ones pay for our choice of occupation.
This year alone, I have missed Valentines Day, My wife’s birthday, Memorial Day, both of my daughters birthdays, and our Anniversary! On the schedule I’m on now, I will also miss Halloween, my birthday, and Thanksgiving is up in the air. I did have the 4th of July at home.
I’ve talked about many of the issues that we face regarding new rules, lack of training standards, insurance minimums, self insurance, getting involved, lack of respect, and other things. The one thing that gets overlooked the most is the personal price paid by drivers and their families. No matter where you are in the economic scale, every one of us are here to improve the lives for ourselves and our families.
In return for my commitment to my chosen occupation I provide a decent lifestyle for my family. I can do this because I chose to educate myself on how to do this business. It’s not merely a job to me. I became an independent operator early on because once I saw how to provide better for my family, I couldn’t just keep on doing what I had been doing.
Of all the considerations that I made, the price my family would pay was one that I didn’t fairly assess. I didn’t give credit to the fact that my wife would have to basically raise our children by herself. Oh yes, I would check in for a couple days a week and expect to be treated like the king of my castle (mobile home at that time). I would, and still do, attend to a few things that need attention at home and try to work that in with my self proclaimed entitled relaxation.
Over the years, Lesli has assumed more and more responsibilities to allow me to do what I do. She does things like mow the lawn, schedule repairs on cars, schedule all the dentist, doctor, and optical appointments. She shows up at recitals and school functions in support of our kids and our nieces that she has cared for since their births. Lately, she has even learned how to caulk around windows and on siding to prepare for winter. Over the years, her responsibility list has kept on growing while mine has stayed the same.
As our business grew, she had to assume the duties of bookkeeper and learn how to manage our finances and record everything in bookkeeping programs, issue invoices and record payments and follow up on late payments and look for loads while I am driving. All of which she has become very accomplished at. Then when I would come home, she would answer all the financial questions I would have.
As for my kids, they grew up in an environment that was normal when I was gone. When I was home, things were different until I hit the road again. I missed many teacher conferences, track meets, ballet and piano recitals, and swim meets as well as other school functions. I wish I could have received pictures on my smart phone of the events that I wasn’t able to attend but they weren’t invented then.
There is a price that we all (drivers and families) pay to pursue this profession. For some, that price is higher than others. For me, missing each of these events left me feeling regret and yet a small bit of satisfaction remained knowing that I was doing the best that I could for my family. Ultimately, that is the balance that we all must strike to be a trucker. We sacrifice our family time to provide the best we can for our families. For my family, each of them dealt with my absences in different ways. I always felt like they were happy when I was able to attend their events but I knew my presence wasn’t required.
I have to say that the trucking occupation has given us a pretty good living; better than anything else that was available to me at the time. It’s not all bad but it has had its price from time to time. The focus of this piece however is to shine a small light on the life of a trucker’s family. If I could turn back time and make that choice again, knowing what I know now, I would still choose this occupation for the same reasons.
There is some 3-3.2 million drivers currently employed in the United States. There are at least a half dozen people closely associated with each of these drivers. So when you go shopping, remember that not only a trucker brought it but, a trucker’s family also paid a price for you to have the things you want. As you drive down the road and pass that truck, take a moment to realize that many people have paid a price for you to have the things you need for your family. Sometimes, a little wave or consideration on the road makes everyone feel a little bit better about what we do and what our families have given up to bring America’s goods to market. If you happen to run into a family member of a trucker, please express your appreciation for their sacrifices too. Thank you.