Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Stress Management

Trucking involves a large amount of stress. Yes, it can be managed, but it can also tear you apart. As a business owner, I don't let stress bother me. In fact, one of the things I often hear is that I act very calm for the situation. This isn't to say I handle every situation the same, as some situations require a little "self-imposed" stress to keep on top of things.  Like a load which demands intense focus to detail and constant monitoring, from loading until delivery.  Some drivers would simply start complaining and yelling at the customer, but I know better, so I handle the situation in a way that doesn't allow others to know I'm dealing with that "self-imposed" stress.

The main goal of being an owner operator of a truck is to have a profitable business. In saying that, you must have systematic goals which you accomplish different ways: over a short period of time, a midterm period of time, and a long period of time. Goal accomplishment will get you through all obstacles that present themselves and it'll help you focus in stressful situations.

A good example of this is when the load is already behind schedule when you arrive to pick it up (by no fault of yours) and the customer is demanding you drive faster to get it delivered. You could let this bother you and the agent/broker/customer may call you incessantly to remind you that you need to hurry up and not take any unnecessary breaks. Or, you could understand that if the customer wanted it there sooner, they should have ordered it sooner. Don't forget what happened to the Titanic when the order to go faster was given in spite of the knowledge the captain had, which was to go slower.

As the operator of a big rig, you are the sole person responsible for whatever happens. You are the one who will go to jail, get a ticket, get in an accident, damage the equipment, etc.  That trumps anyone's desires for you to break the law or behave unsafely. There is one thing that has stood the test of time in the trucking business and it's this: A good driving record is valuable anywhere, whereas a bad driving record will keep you enslaved to the company you're working with.  Or, keep you out of working altogether. You want to maintain your freedom, and in order to do so you must be in command of all that happens around your own truck.

When you have goals and stick to them, the whole picture comes into focus.  An example of a long term goal would be wanting to pay off your truck, trailer, house, and fund a retirement account.  This goal may be achieved fifteen years or so, which is why it's a long term goal.  The midterm goal would be to simply pay the truck off, which would take you five years.  The short term goal would be to just deliver the load.  All of these goals work together; the short term goal helps your midterm goal which helps your long term goal.  If what you are doing today doesn’t help you accomplish your long term goal, then you need to change what you're doing.

An essential part of the goal setting is to be realistic.  You can’t be 50 years old and plan to play tennis with 15 year olds competitively.  In trucking there are many risks which must be managed.  First of all, your plan needs to include a worst case scenario.  This scenario is simple:  you're dead.  It doesn’t get any worse than that. 

Now take a few steps away from that.  Let's say you aren't dead, but you can’t work anymore for whatever reason.  Can you sell your equipment?  Can you pay your bills?  Can you walk away?  Being unable to handle these things will contribute to stress, which can be overwhelming.  The more you manage it, the easier it is to remain in business. 

My worst case scenario doesn’t involve my death, but the death of those around me.  Although my death would really suck (HAHA), having an accident where some innocent person trying to get from their house to their kid’s baseball game, but doesn't make it because they were killed by my truck is unacceptable.  Many drivers who have found themselves in this situation leave the industry and never return.  And for good reason. 

I am trying to deliver freight, not be the reason someone doesn’t have a father, mother, or child anymore.  So for this reason alone, the number one thing anyone behind the wheel of a semi-truck needs to constantly remember, is that safety is the ONLY thing that matters.  If you aren’t being safe, you will never accomplish any goal.  Anywhere.  If you remember this and adhere to a goal accomplishment regimen, you will live in what I call The Stress Free Zone.


Scott said...

Trucking is a very tough business, but you guys seem to really enjoy it.

Belledog said...

Terrific post, Ed. You really need to teach.

Although you are, with this blog.

Good focus on longterm, midterm and short-term goals.

ELH said...

another very well thought post Ed..please keep up the great work..you bring out topics that a lot of folks are thinking about..

Ed said...

Thanks ELH, Belledog, and Scott. I've been given some good ideas for more posts on here so I'll just keep on going.

Anonymous said...

Great post, and I actually believe what you wrote! Ha Ha I say this, because if you were from a large trucking company I would automatically dismiss your post as rhetoric because they DO Not practice what they preach.

I admire what You and Salena are doing, and believe me, I am paying close attention so I can make it happen for myself.


Do you have any single men in your family that are like you? ha ha

Ed said...

Thanks Dee and good luck to you if you choose the path we have chosen. I stopped driving someone else's truck over ten years ago and never looked back. Both Salena and I have no outside influences nor do we ever intend to. We write our blogs for fun and entertainment. Also, if it helps someone out then even better! Thanks for stopping by.