Many in the freight hauling industry argue that these are the most stressful times ever. Whether it's a lack of loads, demanding dispatchers, or breakdowns, there's no lack of stress for truckers. And to top it off, there are the general stresses of everyday non-trucking life.
This is probably why road rage is so rampant. You see it happen with drivers in four-wheelers all the time and truckers often get caught up in it by no fault of their own. Other times, however, the stressed-out trucker may be the one to start it.
The road is simply another place to act out the anger that so many of us have, and professional drivers are not immune to road rage. They're people too!
But when you step away from the stigma of the term itself, isn’t "road rage" for truckers equivalent to anger people experience in office or factory jobs?
So, what gets truckers angry behind the wheel? Often, everyone wants to focus on the anger itself. However, if we look at it from a therapeutic point of view, it is not really about the anger. There are feelings driving the anger (no pun intended!). Once the feelings below the anger are addressed, then the anger subsides or is significantly reduced.
Road rage really isn’t about the anger you see on the road. Rather, it's more about the existing stresses—the incident on the road was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Don’t forget, anger is not the primary emotion. Disappointment, feeling disrespected, depression, stress, and a whole slew of other emotions are the true emotions that cause anger. Remember to ask yourself what your main emotion is the next time you get angry. By identifying your root anger feeling, you will be able to address the problem, instead of focusing on your anger.
The next time you are feeling a bit of rage behind the wheel, think about this: How many people yell, scream, and get in a physical fight when someone steps in front of them on the sidewalk? How about if they bump into you?
I don’t think I have ever heard of that happening. So why does this happen if you are in a vehicle? Many experts on the subject believe it is the separation of people that causes this. For example, each person is in their rolling bubble, where they feel more anonymous and a lot less personal. Therefore, they think they can get away with anything.
I want to add that I appreciate all of the professional driving that 99.99% of truckers do. It is a shame that truckers are often quick to be labeled as having road rage, and if they are involved in such an incident, they are almost always blamed as the root cause.
While writing this road rage article, it reminded me of a trucker client I once had who told me that no matter how fast he drove, cars passed him. He said that he thought he was a big obstacle that cars had to pass—no matter the speed.
Remember, the way others on the road drive is not a reflection of you. It’s a reflection of their prejudices and, likely, ignorance other drivers have about trucks.
Tips for reducing road rage:
- If you wouldn’t yell and cuss at a person in front of you on the sidewalk, why do it in your truck?
- Avoid negative exchanges with the other driver, whether it's through gestures or the CB.
- Anger is energy. Before blowing up, ask yourself, "Is this stranger really worth my time and energy?"
- Express your anger constructively. Instead of yelling and raising your blood pressure, it may be more appropriate to call 9-1-1 to report an unsafe driver.
- Remember free will—you can’t control others. They make their own decisions and suffer the consequences. (Hopefully you don’t suffer the consequences of their decisions too!)
- Ask yourself, "Will it matter next week, next month, or next year?"
- Ask yourself, "What right do I have that is being violated?" If you can't think of one, let it go.
- Look at the person/situation making you angry as a test to see if you will become angry.
- If you allow others to make you angry, you are allowing them to control you. Do you really want others pulling your strings?
- Remember, the only person responsible for your anger is you. It's OK to let off a little steam by making a few comments to yourself about other drivers out there. Just don’t get carried away with it!
Buck Black is a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in working with truckers and their families. He offers affordable trucker-friendly consultation via phone and Skype at TruckerTherapy.com, but he also has a private practice at the Heartland Clinic in Lafayette, Indiana. Black also has clinical experience helping adolescents and adults with a wide range of problems including relationship issues, substance abuse, anger management, anxiety, and depression. Follow @TruckerTherapy on Twitter to learn more.