I know from personal experience: trucker fatigue and burn out are not the same.
I have experienced and suffered through both. Fatigue and burn out result from spending too much time behind the wheel, without sufficient breaks along with serious, serious sleep deprivation.
Lack of sleep and proper rest can really mess with your mind….believe me. Trucker fatigue and burnout aren’t the same.
But there’s one thing they do have in common….they are both deadly.
Trucker Fatigue vs Driver Burnout
Fatigue is when you are tired and are having trouble concentrating for any length of time because of a lack of sleep or rest.
Signs of Burnout
- Burn out is bordering on a complete mental break down.
- You start thinking irrational thoughts.
- You start thinking of just parking the rig, any where, and just walking away.
- Suicide is a frequent thought that enters the mind of a truck driver, who is suffering a mental breakdown.
- Crying jags are frequent.
My Experience With Driver Burnout
I am an older driver who retired last summer with more than 6.5 million miles behind me. I started driving at the age of 18 when probably 30% of the highway cowboys didn’t have a required chauffeur’s license.
They knew how to shift the old five over four or the new 13 speed trannies. A non- stop trip from New York to Chicago (or even further) was common.
The old cabovers pounded a driver’s back on the old poorly paved highways. Air conditioning was rare in a truck. Many cabs had little, if any, noise suppressing insulation so a co-driver slept in spurts between holes in the highways.
I had driver fatigue more often than I care to think about.
48 Days On the Road
Complete driver burnout became a reality in 1976 when I logged 48 straight days without a break. I traveled from New York to LA, from LA to Toronto, then a rush trip back to LA. I went from LA to Jacksonville FL then to Kansas City. From Kansas, I went back to LA. Then came the killer: a trip to Anchorage Alaska on the old Alaska Hwy.
I came within a hair’s breath of walking away in LA because of exhaustion. I relented however and headed north.
By the time I got to a town on the Alaska Hwy, Fort Nelson, mile 300, I was thinking about abandoning the rig and catching a bus to back home in Detroit.
However, a good meal, four hours sleep and I was back on the cow trail north.
When I dropped the load in Anchorage five days later, their receiver gave me a note from our dispatch that I was to pick up a military, classified load to Georgia. It was a rush trip.
The burn out hit like a brick on the side of my head. Three thousand miles up the cow’s ass, exhausted, with at least 13 days of practically non-stop driving ahead of me. Remember the Alcan in 1976 meant staying between 30 -50 mph, as long as it didn’t rain.
It was 1350 miles of pot holes and winding cow trail.
Within two hours of out of Anchorage, I pulled over and broke down bawling my damned head off.
When I got back to Mile 300 on the Hwy (Fort Nelson) I parked the rig on the side of the highway, walked over to Grey Hound depot and asked for a ticket south. It would be two more days before the next bus came through and it was heading north. Back in the cab.
Three times I considered piling the truck into the rocks or down steep embankments. Steering into an oncoming truck entered my mind three or four times. I wanted to end it, somehow.
I phoned our company in New York from Dawson Creek (Mile 0) and told them that I was finished with driving, so send another driver to take the load. They talked me into getting to Edmonton Alberta where they would pre-arrange a place to park the rig so I could take a day off.
Back in the cab, pissed, hating the truck, the sound of the motor and everything that came toward me.
When I finally got to Edmonton, nine hours later. I found the company yard where I could park the rig, climbed out of the cab and started walking.
At 1:30 am and twenty-two blocks later I found a motel, checked in and stayed in bed for near twenty hours.
I walked for about six hours every day for the next four days before I even started thinking about getting back on the road.
When I phoned our dispatch, the big fat bastard gave me shit for not calling in and that they could be fined Bla Bla Bla $$ per day for late delivery. I hung up on the fat pig and spent two more days walking around the city.
With my brain sort of back to level, I made it back to the rig and hit the highway again.
I Coldcocked the Dispatcher
Needless to say, I was fired when I got back to our company yard. I also had an assault charge laid against me for cold cocking the yapping dispatcher as I left the company office. (The charges were dropped by the way)
I spent a month at home but ended up back on the road again with a brand new company Kenworth under me.
I Had Decided to NEVER Go There Again
Life was good again but more under my control from that point on. I had a new truck, air conditioning, beautifully quiet cab with a 15 speed Eaton to play with and the dispatchers looked after the drivers.
Trucker fatigue and burn out are no were near being the same thing. Burn out can be fatal.
More Trucker Stories!
- The Trip From Hell
- No More Trucking in California For Me
- The Worst Load Ever!
- My Life Changed Forever
- Frozen in Canada