Building resilience and coping skills
When I first started working full time as a truck driver, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I found a great company to work for, but my first few months were a bit tough. Sometimes it felt like they would just chuck keys at me and tell me to have the trailer at the supermarket dock by 5pm that day. I also felt like they wanted me to drive from Perth to Sydney in unrealistic timeframes.
I remember feeling so tired from broken sleep and real lonely at times because I wasn’t socialising as much. I’m a very stubborn and independent person, though, so I stuck with it and gradually found my feet. After a while, I got to know some of the other drivers in the fleet and we started connecting more regularly which really helped me feel less alone on the road. They also suggested I speak up about feeling tired and how I was finding the deadlines unmanageable. They said they’d been heard on similar issues.
Shortly after this I had a near miss. I had a microsleep and stopped focussing on the road. My truck veered out of the lane and into oncoming traffic. The fatigue monitoring system woke me up and I safely corrected.
It bloody shook me up though. I kept thinking ‘what if the alarm didn’t work’ and ‘what if the oncoming vehicle had been closer?’. There was nowhere safe to pull up for another hour so I had to keep going. My hands were shaking and the sweat was pouring off me.
When I was able to pull up I got out of the cab and got myself together a bit. Then I called my supervisor. I told him what had happened and how I’d been feeling pressured and like I couldn’t say no. I was surprised because he was really concerned about my welfare. We agreed that I’d take a break for half an hour or so and then stop at the next town where there was a decent roadhouse. I took my long rest break early and went really steady for the rest of the trip.