Scientists are concerned about truck drivers' mental health - but they have yet to find a solution
- Truckers are often away from home for weeks at a time.
- Loneliness is the top mental issue that truck drivers report, and scientists are increasingly realizing just how vital strong relationships are for a person's health and longevity.
- Current truckers spoke with Business Insider about how what they've missed, and how they cope with not seeing their children, partners, and families.
Rob, a four-year veteran of the truck driving industry, hasn't hugged someone in months. The last person was his mother.
"She met me as I passed about 100 miles from her house, to drop off some food and see me while I got fuel," Rob, 52, told Business Insider. "I visited for about 15 minutes. Then, I had to go. Because my drive clock was running, and I had 1,200 miles to go within 36 hours. And Mom got to drive 100-plus miles back home."
The lack of personal life is a common theme among longhaul truckers like Rob, who asked to not have his last name published. Dozens of truckers told Business Insider about how the job crushes their ability to see their partners, children, friends, and family.
Of the mental health concerns that truck drivers experience, loneliness tops the list. Nearly a third of drivers say being alone all day and away from their family is a "significant issue affecting their mental health."
Researchers have increasingly found that strong relationships are the strongest predictor of long and happy lives - moreso than income, social class, IQ, genes, and traditional markers of health like cholesterol levels.
Drivers are away from home for weeks at a time - and it seems like a necessary flaw in the industry. Freight rates and driver incomes have recently soared, which may make the job more bearable.
Courtesy of Gary Artz
Artz, who lives in the northwestern Texas city of Lubbock and is married with two daughters and six grandchildren, is also a truck driver.
"People that have 9 to 5 jobs take a lot of things for granted," Artz told Business Insider. "They're home at night, find out what the day events were. They're home to go to the kids' school functions, baseball games, football games, cheerleading, dance recitals - all them things like that that they take for granted and get to see.
"We, on the other hand, have to look at that little girl or little boy and tell them, 'I'll try to make the next,'" Artz said.
Truck drivers try to make the most of the time they are home
Rob Shulin, 56, has two 30-something children. He was a truck driver for their entire childhoods.
"I was never around for Father's Day, birthdays, and most holidays," Shulin told Business Insider. "Now that I am home, my kids are grown and gone. A very lonely feeling indeed."
Courtesy of Rob Shulin
Courtesy of Rob Shulin
But he emphasized the positive end - namely the ability to provide for his children.
"The bright side to the story is I was able to send both children to college, and they are happy and well adjusted," Shulin said.
Looking at the income that trucking generates is how many drivers cope that they weren't able to see their children - $44,000 a year for truck transportation jobs.
Truckers also emphasized that they valued the little time they did have with their kids. Iowa-based Rene Meneses, who has been trucking since 1987, has a daughter who is almost 30.
He missed most of her dance recitals and soccer games, but they spent his days off together at a barn. "We had a horse. I rented a little farm," Meneses, 53, told Business Insider.
"My daughter remembered the amount of time, not the quantity," Meneses added. "We make the days special when we're together."
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