Brian Smith

March 15, 2024

18 minutes

A Day in The Life of a Trucker & Tips for Better Trucking Life

A Day in The Life of a Trucker & Tips for Better Trucking Life

A day in the life of a trucker can get lonely sometimes, but it can also feel like one incredible adventure. The trucking lifestyle consists of a vast network of highways that crisscross over countries. Without a doubt, truckers are the beacon of hope who keep the wheels of commerce turning. They deliver goods and essentials to every corner of the nation. The role of a trucker in the economy is indispensable. They form the backbone of supply chains and ensure that goods reach their destinations on time.

With the rumbling of engines and the stretches of road that seem unending, this lifestyle is both demanding and rewarding. It's a unique experience that offers freedom, solitude, and adventures. However, it also comes with its own set of challenges. The chief struggle among these is to maintain a healthy lifestyle while always on the go.

As the open road beckons with the promise of new sights and experiences, it presents the obstacle of that balanced, healthy lifestyle. In this post, we're going to take a closer look at a day in the life of a trucker and some tips to attain a better trucking life, specifically, one that balances the demands of the road with the need for self-care and well-being. Let's get started.

The Day-to-Day Life of a Trucker

The trucker lifestyle is so much more than just driving from point A to point B. In fact, it involves a plethora of tasks and responsibilities that keep the wheels turning and the goods flowing. The daily life of a trucker includes:

  • Pre-trip inspections: Before hitting the road, truckers check vehicles and secure cargo. Utilizing a CDL pre-trip inspection checklist can reduce stress levels by providing an approach to vehicle inspection that leaves no room for error.
  • Driving & Trip Planning: This is how truckers plan their routes, manage their time, and handle the logistics of pick-ups and deliveries.
  • Communication While on the Road: Truckers coordinate with dispatch, interact with customers, stay in touch with family, friends, and employers during long trips.
  • Health and Wellness: Truckers must pay attention to their diet, hydration, and find time for physical activities (to counteract the sedentary nature of their job).
  • Rest and Relaxation: Truckers need to "recharge their batteries" with quality sleep and personal time.
  • Load Management: On the daily, truckers assist with or oversee the loading and unloading process. Additionally, they complete and obtain the necessary paperwork upon delivery or pickup.
  • Truck Maintenance: Truckers perform regular checks and minor maintenance tasks to keep the rigs running smoothly.

How Many Days a Week Do Truck Drivers Work?
Truckers can only work six days in a row.
This adheres to regulations while prioritizing driver safety and wellbeing. This allows for adequate rest and recovery between shifts.

Differences Between the Life of a Company Driver vs. an Owner-Operator

Life as a trucker opens up two distinct paths. Each path has distinct characteristics, responsibilities, and benefits, affecting lifestyle, income potential, and job flexibility:

Company driver
For many, the company truck driver lifestyle can be more straightforward. It focuses solely on driving without the added stress of running a business. The company covers most operational costs. This includes fuel, maintenance, insurance, and truck payments. Schedules and routes are often determined by the employer. This provides a level of stability and predictability. Income is more predictable, but there's a ceiling in earnings potential.

Owner-operator
Owning and operating comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities. It can be rewarding but requires dealing with the complexities of entrepreneurship, which can be stressful. These truckers are responsible for all business expenses. This includes truck payments, maintenance, fuel, insurance, and operational costs. However, this path provides flexibility that could potentially lead to a better work-life balance. It also requires more time invested into business management tasks.

Owner-operators can streamline their operations and maximize efficiency with tools like LoadBoost™.  LoadBoost™ offers a free comprehensive Transportation Management System (TMS), dispatch services, and access to a load board. With LoadBoost™, owner-operators can efficiently manage their loads, find new opportunities, and focus on growing their business.

A Day in the Life of a Healthy Trucker

Let's take a look at a day in the life of a truck driver. Meet Dan: he's a dedicated long-haul trucker who has mastered the art of maintaining a healthy lifestyle on the road. In the sections below, we'll uncover how Dan's truck driver schedule is approached with determination and balance:

the healthy life of a trucker

Morning Routine

Dan's day begins with the first light of dawn. Before even stepping out of his truck, he reaches for a bottle of water on his nightstand. Breakfast is next on his agenda. Dan prepares a nutritious meal in the small kitchenette he has set up in his truck. Today, it's a homemade oatmeal pack with a mix of nuts and dried fruits, coupled with a protein shake. It's quick, easy, and sets him up with the energy needed for the day ahead. After breakfast, he steps outside for a morning exercise routine, consisting of stretching and bodyweight exercises like push-ups and squats. If he's parked at a rest area with some space, he'll also take a short walk or jog to get his heart rate up.

Healthy Habits
The right approach to the truck driver lifestyle should include healthy habits like Dan's. Here are some tips for a driver's well-being:

  • Wake-up and hydration: Start the day with water to kickstart metabolism.
  • Have breakfast: Prioritize a nutritious breakfast to fuel the body for the challenges of the day. This should include a balanced mix of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats.
  • Morning exercise routine: Stretching and bodyweight exercises (e.g., push-ups, squats) or a short walk/jog around the rest area.
  • Winter Precautions: In winter, be cautious of icy conditions if venturing outside.
  • Indoor Workouts: If conditions outside are unsafe, you can do indoor workouts in the truck. This can include yoga, Pilates, or bodyweight exercises like lunges and planks.

Quick Healthy Breakfast Ideas

  • Overnight oats: Prepare oats with milk or yogurt, add fruits, nuts, and a touch of honey.  Be sure to let it sit in the fridge overnight for a quick grab-and-go meal.
  • Greek yogurt parfait: Layer Greek yogurt with granola and fresh berries for a protein-packed breakfast.
  • Whole grain wraps: Fill whole grain wraps with scrambled eggs, spinach, avocado, and salsa for a balanced meal on the road.
  • Protein smoothies: Blend spinach, bananas, protein powder, and almond milk for a nutrient-rich breakfast that's easy to drink while driving.
  • Hard-boiled eggs: Cook a batch of hard-boiled eggs ahead of time for a quick source of protein on busy mornings.
  • Trail mix: Combine nuts, dried fruits, and whole grain cereal for a portable and energizing breakfast option.
  • Energy bars: Look for bars made with whole ingredients and balanced macronutrients to fuel your morning without sacrificing nutrition.

These options are perfect for truckers like Dan who are looking for convenient meals that provide energy for long hours on the road.

On the Road

Once on the road, Dan keeps a stash of pre-packed healthy snacks within easy reach—nuts, fruits, and vegetables are his go-to options. Hydration is key, so he sips water throughout the day, avoiding sugary drinks. Every few hours, he pulls over at rest stops to stretch his legs and breathe in some fresh air.

Healthy Habits
In Dan's life as a trucker, he understands the importance of snacking-smart on the road. Let's see what that looks like:

  • Snacking smart: By keeping pre-packed healthy snacks like nuts, fruits, and vegetables, a trucker doesn't have to resort to unhealthy options.
  • Staying hydrated: The importance of water over sugary drinks is paramount. This will keep truckers alert and prevent fatigue.
  • Mindful breaks: It's important to take regular short breaks for leg stretches and fresh air. During these breaks, simple exercises can keep the body limber and mind refreshed.

A truck driver on the road can incorporate these healthy habits to stay energized and focused on the road. This can also ensure truckers arrive at their destination safe and in good spirits.

Lunch and Dinner

For lunch, Dan prefers his homemade, nutritious meals over fast food options. He uses a cooler and a mini-fridge to store easy-to-prepare meals, ensuring he has access to healthy food throughout his journey. On occasions when he dines out, Dan opts for healthier restaurant choices, emphasizing vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
nutrition in the daily life of a trucker

Healthy Habits
For Dan, the life of a trucker means prioritizing healthy eating habits that fuel his body for the long-haul. By choosing homemade meals, truckers like Dan can control the ingredients and portion sizes. This is an excellent way to ensure the consumption of nutritious foods that support health and well-being. Utilizing truck driver accessories, like a cooler and mini-fridge, is a great way to store nutritious meals that keep truckers happy and energized throughout the journey.

How to eat healthy as a truck driver:

  • When dining out, look for options labeled as 'light', 'healthy', or 'low-calorie'. Look further into the ingredients and nutritional facts to substantiate the label claims.
  • Choose dishes that are grilled, baked, or steamed instead of fried.
  • Don't be afraid to make substitutions or adjustments to your meal. This can include swapping fries for a side salad or requesting dressings and sauces on the side.
  • Prioritize items that feature lean protein sources.
  • Choose dishes with plenty of vegetables or ask for extra veggies to be added. This ensures truckers get a variety of vitamins, minerals, and fiber in their diets.

When a trucker chooses to incorporate these healthy habits, they're setting themselves up for success throughout the journey.

Here's a quick guide to meal prep some delicious high protein lunches: 

Evening Routine

After a day's drive, Dan focuses on his post-driving exercise. He finds a safe spot to park and uses TRX bands for strength training. On days he carries his foldable bike, he enjoys cycling around the area he's parked in.
Before bedtime, he practices meditation, reads a book, or calls his family to relax and destress. Sleep is paramount for Dan. He has optimized his truck's cabin to ensure a good night's sleep, with blackout curtains and a comfortable mattress. In the winter, he uses a portable heater to warm up the cabin before bed.

Healthy Habits
Like Dan, truckers need to understand the importance of staying active even after a long day driving on the road. Using TRX bands or going for a bike ride (if carrying a foldable bike) can help truckers unwind and maintain their physical fitness. During cold weather, truckers can opt for indoor exercises to stay active and warm. They must be sure to focus on exercises that target different areas of the body. Truckers can repeat each exercise 10 times and gradually increase to three sets of 10 reps:

  • Push-Ups
  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Planks
  • Resistance Band Exercises
  • Or Get Creative with Water Jug Weights

Here are some stretching exercises for truck drivers to consider:

  • Neck Stretches
  • Shoulder Shrugs and Rolls
  • Hamstring Stretch
  • Calf Stretches
  • Lower Back Stretch

Additionally, during the colder months, it's important for truckers to drink warm liquids such as herbal teas. This ensures they keep themselves hydrated and warm. Another important aspect to consider is wind-down activities such as meditation, reading, or calling family to relax and destress. Our trucker, Dan, also recognizes the importance of a quality sleep. Truckers need a good sleeping environment in their truck's cabin, as well as a comfortable mattress to get a good night's sleep.

When truckers prioritize these healthy habits, they set themselves up for rejuvenating rest as they prepare for another day on the road.

Here's a few easy stretches to stop truck driver back pain: 

The Unhealthy Trucker: Risks and Realities

According to Pubmed, the typical working conditions found in the life of a trucker can present obstacles to adopting healthy behaviors. In fact, the long hours on the road, irregular schedules, and extended periods away from home pose several health risks. Let's take a closer look at the risks and realities below:

Common Unhealthy Habits

Due to the very nature of the profession, truckers often fall into unhealthy habits. Reliance on fast food, lack of exercise, and insufficient sleep are common issues in a truck driver's life. Additionally, smoking and dependence on certain substances, like caffeine, are prevalent among the trucking community. Compounding these issues is the neglect of medical care. This is because it's difficult for truckers to keep regular medical appointments.

The Toll on Health

Unhealthy habits in the life as a trucker have potential long-term effects like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Studies have shown that truck drivers have double the likelihood of obesity compared to other workers in the U.S. Smoking rates among truck drivers are also twice as high as the average for U.S. workers, with female truck drivers showing a threefold increase in smoking rates compared to other women in the workforce. These studies also show that 26% of truck drivers are reporting hypertension, slightly above the 24% prevalence in the general U.S. working population. Furthermore, diabetes prevalence is notably higher among truck drivers. Diabetes is at 14%, compared to 7% in the broader U.S. workforce.

The cumulative impact of these unhealthy habits on the life as a trucker can't be overstated. Addressing these health disparities is imperative to a trucker's well-being.

Impact Beyond Health

There are consequences to consider beyond health and physical well-being. This can impact a trucker's wealth, lifespan, and family life. Chronic conditions, oftentimes, lead to unexpected healthcare costs. According to the CDC, the truck driver's life expectancy is 61 years of age... that's 17 years less than the average US life expectancy of 78 years! This underscores the severity of the health challenges they face.

Moreover, extended periods away from home, coupled with chronic health issues, can place strain on relationships with spouses, children, and other family members. Indubitably, the toll on family life adds another layer of complexity to the already challenging trucker lifestyle.

effects of unhealthy life of a trucker

Truckers' Life Hacks for Better Living

The life of a trucker can be healthier, more enjoyable, and financially sound by following these professional tips below:

Budgeting on the Road

Managing expenses while traveling is crucial for financial stability in the life of a trucker on the road. Here's how to solidly handle them:

  • Use apps or a simple notebook to track every expense.
  • Investing in a portable cooler or mini-fridge and a compact cooking appliance like a slow cooker can save hundreds of dollars a month.
  • Use fuel cards for truckers that offer discounts and use apps to find the best fuel prices along your route.
  • Use GPS and route planning apps to find the most efficient routes.
  • Take advantage of the sleeper berth to save on hotel costs. Invest in a comfortable mattress and bedding to improve sleep quality.
  • Use loyalty programs and booking apps to find the best deals.

By implementing these strategies, truckers can manage their finances on the road for a more sound trucking career.

Tax Tips for Truckers

Being a truck driver comes with its share of tax considerations. This includes deductions and record keeping. Let's take a closer look at some tax tips below:

According to OOIDA, truckers can deduct a per diem rate for every day they're working and away from home. Truckers must familiarize themselves with specific deductions available to truckers. Some of these include uniforms, laundry (for work clothes), and professional dues.

Here are 13 tax deductions you can take advantage of while living your life as a trucker:

  • Fuel and Maintenance: Expenses related to fuel and truck maintenance.
  • Truck Expenses: Costs associated with lease payments or owning the truck.
  • Travel Expenses: Expenses paid for lodging, meals, and incidental travel expenses while away from home.
  • Communication: Amount paid for communication devices and services necessary for work.
  • Insurance Premiums: Expenses paid for truck insurance.
  • Tolls and Parking Fees: Costs associated with tolls and parking fees that are incurred while traveling.
  • Per Diem: The rate discussed above, a per-day rate while away from home.
  • Vehicle Expenses: Expenses for maintenance and vehicle-related purchases.
  • Uniforms and Protective Gear: The cost of uniforms and required protective gear.
  • Training and Education: Job-related training and education expenses.
  • Home Office Expenses: Expense incurred from home office used for work-related purposes.
  • Tax Preparation Fees: Deduct fees paid for tax prep.
  • Licensing Fees: Expenses for professional permits and licenses.

According to the IRS, in order to maximize your income, you need to understand the rules and be aware of working expenses. Be sure to save all receipts related to your job. This includes fuel, meals, maintenance, and lodging. This will ensure accurate record-keeping and support your tax deductions.

Working with Dispatch and Brokers

Understanding the role of dispatchers and brokers and how to interact with them is a crucial aspect of the truck driving career. These key players directly impact the quality of life as a trucker. Dispatchers and brokers can impact job satisfaction, stress levels, and financial stability.

When working with dispatchers and brokers, utilize technology to your advantage. Leverage services like our mobile app for real-time updates and efficient communication. Be sure to set clear expectations from the start about your preferred routes, hours, and any personal commitments. Furthermore, when dealing with these players, be flexible with assignments, but set your boundaries regarding rest, family time, and personal obligations.

Invest in Comfort for Driving

The quality of the life of a trucker on the road can be improved by investing in comfort.

It's important to consider a few key upgrades, such as a high-quality seat, or an ergonomically designed seat cushion. These items can offer better lumbar support and reduce the risk of back pain. A comfortable mattress and pillows in the sleeper berth can greatly improve sleep quality. This leads to improved alertness and mood, while reducing the risk of accidents caused by drowsy driving.

Another investment is to consider using earplugs or noise-canceling headphones to block noise and attain a more restful and uninterrupted sleep.For additional comfort, truckers can personalize the cab with items that make it feel more like home. Items such as family photos, comfortable bedding, or personal mementos can significantly boost morale and mental health.

Combating Loneliness

Dealing with the isolation that can come with the truck driver lifestyle requires proactive efforts to stay connected, maintain physical and mental health, and engage in fulfilling activities. Consider these strategies:

  • Regular phone calls, video chats, and text messages with family and friends.
  • Engage with social media platforms and online forums dedicated to truckers.
  • Participate in trucker meet-ups, trade shows, or other industry events.
  • Use time on the road to explore new music or learn a new language.
  • Use breaks to explore new areas, even if it's just a quick visit to a nearby park or a short hike.
  • Practice mindfulness or meditation to manage stress and improve emotional resilience.

By incorporating these strategies, truckers can enhance their overall well-being and combat loneliness on the road.

benefits and challenges in life of a trucker

Benefits and Challenges of a Trucking Lifestyle

Benefits

There are many positives in a truck driving career. Here are some to take note of:

Good Earnings Potential: Truck drivers can earn a sizable income. This is especially true for those with experiments, endorsements for specialized loads, and overtime. How much do truck drivers make? The amount a truck driver makes can vary, but can be lucrative, particularly for owner-operators. They have the potential to make even higher earnings.

Travel Opportunities: The life of a trucker offers the chance to travel extensively. Oftentimes, truckers travel to a place they might not otherwise visit. It's an appealing aspect for those who love being on the road and experiencing different regions.

Independence: Many truckers appreciate the independence and solitude of the job. They enjoy the freedom of the open road without the constant supervision found in traditional office settings.

Job Security: There is a consistent demand for truck drivers due to the crucial role of trucking in the supply chain. Without truckers, nothing moves.

Flexible Scheduling: Some trucking jobs offer flexible scheduling, allowing drivers to choose their routes and home time. This can be particularly beneficial for those seeking a work-life balance.

Community: The trucking community is strong and supportive, with drivers often forming lifelong bonds.

Challenges

Now that we've talked about the benefits, it's important to note that the life of a trucker isn't without its challenges. Some of the obstacles to consider include:

Long Hours and Time Away from Home: Trucking often requires long hours on the road. This can lead to significant time away from family and friends. It affects personal relationships and social life.

Health Issues: The sedentary nature of driving for long periods can lead to health concerns. These include obesity, cardiovascular disease, and back problems.

Stress: Trucking can be stressful due to tight delivery schedules, traffic congestion, weather conditions, and the responsibility of hauling valuable or hazardous materials.

Isolation: Despite the strong community aspect, trucking can be a solitary profession. This leads to feelings of isolation or loneliness for some drivers.

Safety Risks: Truck drivers face multiple safety risks. These include accidents and injuries from loading and unloading cargo. Additionally, there's the risk of driving in adverse weather conditions or through challenging terrains, among others.

Despite these challenges, trucking remains essential to the economy and a world of opportunity opens for those willing to navigate its demands.

The Journey and Career Growth

If you're interested in becoming a truck driver, the best way to start the journey is with long-term career planning, continuous learning and networking. Let's take a closer look at the trucker path below:

Building a Lasting Career as a Truck Driver

The journey of a truck driving career requires continuous growth and strategic planning. Here are some things to consider:

Lifelong Learning and Skills Development
Recognizing the benefits of continuing education and skill enhancement is vital if you wish to advance your career in the trucking industry. Be sure to explore opportunities for further education. For instance, if you're a long-time truck driver, you may want to eventually change your career path in this exciting field. This could include freight broker training, as it can expand your skills and become the middleman between the shipper and the trucking companies. This would allow you to open doors to a new career.

Professional Networking
It's essential to build a professional network within the trucking industry. For example, you can actively engage in industry events like semi truck shows and check out potential pathways in hotshot trucking. This could work in your favor to expand your connections and access new opportunities.

Retirement Planning
Retirement planning for truckers requires careful consideration of the profession's unique challenges. To prepare for retirement from life as a trucker, you must implement financially sound strategies tailored to your career path and lifestyle needs.

At what age do most truck drivers retire?
Most truckers retire around the age of 62.
They adjust their plans to work around the demands and realities of the profession.

Building a long-term career as a truck driver involves committing to the above strategies to ensure long-term success and fulfillment in the industry.

Navigating Trucking Business and Logistics

Life as a truck driver also involves understanding the financial aspects of trucking. This includes how freight pricing works and the relationship between truckers, brokers and dispatchers. Freight pricing is typically set per mile or by the load. It's influenced by several factors. These include the type of freight, distance, weight, market demand, and the overall economy.

For example, Less Than Truckload (LTL) shipping rates play a role in the industry. Understanding LTL rates and how they fit into the pricing structure is essential for truckers and logistics professionals. In addition to freight pricing, truckers also need to set aside money for taxes and unexpected costs. This is especially important for owner-operators who are responsible for these finances directly.

If you're thinking about working as a company driver, be sure to research the best trucking companies to work for. Choosing the right company can make all the difference in one's career satisfaction, earning potential, and overall experience in the industry.

life of a trucker

Debunking Myths About Trucking Life

There are many common misconceptions about life as a truck driver. Today, we aim to shed a bit of light on the truth about the trucking lifestyle:

Myth 1: Truckers Are Always Lonely

The reality of being a truck driver is that truckers aren't necessarily always lonely. In fact, many truckers enjoy the solitude. It gives them time to listen to music, audiobooks, or podcasts. With smartphones and social media, truckers are constantly connected with family and friends. Not to mention, the trucking community is tight-knit. Many drivers often form strong bonds with each other at truck stops or through online forums.

Myth 2: Trucking Is Easy Money

In reality, it requires hard work, long hours, and significant sacrifices. If you embark on the life of a trucker, expenses include the cost of training, licensing, and maintaining certifications. It also comes along with the physical and mental demands of the job. This makes it a challenging career path.

Myth 3: Women Don't Drive Trucks

According to the New York Times, in 2021, out of 1.37 million truck drivers in the U.S., women made up 4.8% of them. With statistics like this, lady trucking quotes like Brene Brown's "Courage starts with showing up" come to mind. The reality of being a truck driver is challenging, but women are stepping up, driving trucks, and shipping goods throughout the US.

Myth 4: Truckers Are Always on the Road

The reality is that driving a truck doesn't mean truckers are always on the road. Many trucking jobs offer regional routes or scheduled runs that allow drivers to be home more frequently. The industry has many roles that include local delivery positions. These positions offer a more regular schedule that balances time spent on the road with time spent at home. When it comes to living life as a trucker, truckers can't drive after 50/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days, in accordance with the hours-of-service regulation per the DOT. This means that drivers must take breaks and can't be on the road all the time in a literal sense.

Myth 5: All Truckers Do Is Drive

The life of a trucker is so much more than driving. As mentioned throughout this article, truckers also need to plan routes, manage logs, perform vehicle maintenance checks, ensure cargo safety, and comply with various state and federal regulations. This job requires problem-solving, time management, and customer service skills. Being a trucker is a multifaceted profession.

Parting Words

We hope you enjoyed taking a look at a day in the life of a trucker. Trucking is a demanding career, but it also offers significant rewards. The role of a trucker goes far beyond taking the wheel. It incorporates strategic planning, effective communication, and diligent vehicle maintenance. That's why it's important to stay healthy and productive while on the road. With the right mindset and strategies, truckers can navigate the challenging terrain, maintain their health and well-being, all while enjoying a fulfilling trucking career.

Brian Smith

I joined Cota Systems to help U.S. truckers grow their businesses. I proudly served in the U.S. Navy, managed some of the largest brands on earth, and I'm excited to share what I've learned with you. Truckers are the backbone of our great nation and when you and your family are thriving, so is America! 🇺🇸

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