Driver Burn Out – What it Looks Like and How to Fight it.

A driver suddenly becomes unresponsive or distant, their attitudes change quicker than the winds in Oklahoma, maybe they’re not as cheerful over the phone as they used to be. Maybe you think nothing of it. Maybe they’re having a bad day, besides, you’ve got enough to deal with as it is.  

Or maybe they have become a bit burned out. Their mind and body both may have started to crater under the back-to-back runs or the unkind shippers that may have to work with, the time spent away from home and the list could go on.

Does your company know how to prevent or reverse driver burn out? What actions can be taken to reduce it and make an impact to turn the tide?

A tale as old as time

“If the truck ain’t moving, you’re not making money.” This has been gospel truth in the trucking world, especially if you’re an owner operator. While there is definitive proof that this is one hundred percent true, that doesn’t mean drivers have a happy and healthy lifestyle around it.

The adage is infamous but emphasizes a sense of “no matter what you’re going through, suck it up and make money.” We have all had that mind set at one point in our lives, or for some drivers, their entire lives and maybe, just maybe, this has something to do with a shortage of drivers.

The life of a truck driver is certainly not the most glamorous nor comfortable. A plethora of factors fighting against them can quickly build up to turn even the kindest of truckers into a cynic. All this to say that it is important to address, acknowledge and understand the day-in, day-out struggles drivers face so to provide reprieve, provisions and solutions that could aide in driver retention and satisfaction.

How to spot it

As mentioned above, a shift in attitude is the biggest indicator. Yes, attitude is primarily how we choose to react to our circumstances but if we’re being honest, we all have our breaking point and have said or done things based on emotion. Daily communication with the drivers and a special attention to how they typically react to issues or dispatching will be the best way to gauge how a driver is holding up. Are they typically conversational with a positive tone and now are short and irritated with any small change in plans? This can happen quickly or over time, making it hard to pay attention to and notice.

Finding excuses to not work or dip out for the day is a tricky indicator. There are always emergencies that come up that keep drivers from working for the day, this is not to invalidate them. But a keen dispatcher or manager will notice more and more days being taken off, frequently, for whatever reason. It may not be that the driver is not wanting to do their job entirely but rather they physically and/or mentally can’t bring themselves to do the job.

“George woke up in his cab one morning and didn't feel like driving. ‘I was exhausted, so I just sat all day in the TA and drank coffee, played some video games. I told my dispatcher that I had been throwing up and couldn't drive. I didn't like lying, and it made me feel like a deadbeat, but I didn't have a choice. I was so tired. Truth be told, I didn't really give a crap about the load anymore, or the job. Nothing really mattered.’

The third-year driver, who asked that his real name not be used, wasn't just tired, bored or unhappy about his job, he probably was suffering from 'burnout,' a difference that eludes and confounds both drivers and their companies – even some doctors – but is a serious and explicit malady from which recovery is more than a solid night's sleep away. While the term burnout often is used incorrectly to describe everything from exhaustion to hating your job, those who have studied the subject say it encompasses specific criteria and, unfortunately, is extremely difficult from which to recover. Many sufferers must quit their jobs to do so.” –

Other signs include:

Evading phone calls and communication

Passive aggressive actions

Overall cynicism towards the job itself

Progressively worsening work performance

So, realistically, now what?

The low-hanging fruit most companies can utilize instantly is implementing check-ins with their drivers. Not just with the driver’s dispatcher but their supervisors as well. In order for these check-in’s to be productive it is important to create a trusting environment from the start that can help the driver feel comfortable going to you about how they are doing and where they are at mentally. There can be certain level of distrust between drivers and some of their managers whether it be from past companies burning them or reluctance to share what they really think for fear of mistreatment or firing them.

The key to creating a comfortable environment for drivers is intentionally getting to know them and their needs. Every single driver is different. Some want more home time; some could stay out for months and the rest can fall in between. Sometimes a driver may prefer a certain route as other induce more stress on them. Not all of your drivers will fit the mold that the company has created for them and it’s important to be flexible with those that are doing their best and keep a positive attitude in less-than-ideal circumstances.

Overall satisfaction also comes from pay (duh). Money talks and it’s important to be able to compete in this market. More and more drivers are finding their worth and acting on it which has attributed to higher driver turnover in recent years. It makes sense to centralize pay on the drivers as without them, the company wouldn’t be profitable.

So, next time you hear that if the truck isn’t moving, you’re not making money, make sure the work is being put in to keep someone behind the wheel of that truck. It’s one thing to miss out on a load, but to lose a driver can cost a company more in the end.

We know drivers have the pick of the litter when it comes to who they choose to work for. Daily they are approached by companies promising grandeur and then some when most the time they fall short after a few months. Meadow Lark is intentional in our investment to our drivers and is constantly learning to be better for the driver.

Join us today and become the best part of Meadow Lark. (877) 590-5450

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