A long haul trucker is no stranger to sleep deprivation. Even local truck drivers deal with the problem of little rest, many working 70 hour weeks. Sleep deprivation is the leading cause of serious truck related accidents, resulting in as high as 40% of all crashes. The constant attitude of many motor carriers of "you've got to get the freight there," is an enormous stress on the long haul trucker. Even though Federal Regulations require a driver to take a 10-hour break after 14 hours of on duty time, these 10 hours often work out to be only 5-6 hours of actual sleep per day.
Several years ago, I decided to keep a log of the actual sleep time I received each day. Over a six-week period, it showed that I was only actually "sleeping" an average of 4 hours per day. Twenty eight hours of sleep in an entire week . . . and to add to the problem, a great deal of long haul trucking is done at night.
Sleep deprivation can lead to many other health problems, including depression. Adding the lack of sleep on top of endless hours alone and away from family, increases the risk of "the invisible illness," depression. Though statistics vary, it is believed that depression in long haul truck drivers is as high as 30-40 percent.
Signs of depression include:
- Feeling of hopelessness
- Loss of interest in daily activities
- Change in appetite or weight
- Sleep disturbances
- Loss of energy or fatigue
- Aches and pains
- Low self esteem
- Less interest in sex
- Feeling of sadness and crying spells
- Thoughts of suicide
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above on a regular basis, you may be battling "the invisible illness." See your doctor. Depression is treatable and you DO NOT have to live that way! The first step is recognizing the signs and the second step is doing something about it. Go to your doctor and get the help that will change your life. As your friend in trucking . . . don't think about it . . . DO IT.