Features - Features

Staying Connected

By Tricia Goss

The trucking life can be a solitary one. When you spend days, even weeks, away from home it's imperative that you find ways to stay connected to your loved ones. This can be a challenge, but with a little effort and imagination it is possible. And the results are priceless!

Phone Home

According to the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, 207.9 million Americans possessed cell phones by the end of 2005. So chances are good that you are the proud owner of one of these pocket-sized devices. Keep in touch without breaking the bank by signing up for and utilizing wireless plans and features such as: free nights and weekends (note what time your carrier considers night time); free mobile-to-mobile calls (free calls to other cell phone users on your network); and friends and family plans (you choose a specific list of numbers to call for free). But don't stop there! See if your cell phone plan includes free text messaging, also called SMS. Don't be intimidated if you are technologically challenged. Once you get the hang of it you'll be a texting maniac. It's a great way to stay linked with your computer-savvy kids. And if you are on the night shift and your spouse is awake days, send a sweet message for her (or him) to wake up to. There are other ways to connect via cellular, too. Some phones come installed with instant messaging programs such as AIM, Yahoo, or ICQ. If you have a camera phone take snapshots of interesting, funny, or breathtaking sites and send a picture message just because.

Here's My Card

If you don't have a cell phone, a great way to touch base with family and friends is by using prepaid long distance phone cards. Travel plazas often sell these at great rates, making them an affordable option. There are a few guidelines to remember when purchasing phone cards. Make sure you read the fine print. Many cards charge a connection fee of 50¢ or more for each call. Some charge an additional fee for calls placed from a pay phone. Some cards charge a weekly "maintenance fee" once the card is used initially. And most cards round up from anywhere from one to six minutes (meaning a seven-minute call would be counted as twelve minutes). If your calls home are generally long ones then it may be worth it to use a very low cost-per-minute card with a higher connection fee, as chances are you'll only "connect" once or twice. However, if your calls are generally brief, it may be wiser to buy one with a higher cost-per-minute but no connection fees.

Get High Tech

Email is another practical solution to staying in touch. If you own a laptop you probably use email on a regular basis. But even if you don't, do not rule out this option. Many travel plazas offer programs such as IdleAire (which allows you to access the Internet from your cab) and Internet kiosks. If you don't already have an email address, there are many sites that offer free email accounts (including layover). Just go to your favorite search engine and type in "free email account" (narrow it down by adding "for truckers").

Go Postal

Never underestimate the power of the written word! A thoughtful greeting card, sappy love note, or even a quick but considerate postcard arriving in that special person's mailbox can mean the difference between a rotten day and a happy afternoon. Jot a few lines to your spouse, kids, or folks between bites of scrambled eggs or while waiting for a lumper. You're sure to make someone's day.

Remember the Little People

Finally, if you're a driver who is the parent of small children, here are a few ideas to help you keep close to your little ones. Record yourself reading some of their favorite bedtime stories onto tapes or CD's for them to listen to at bedtime. Make special calls home just to speak to them. Place a framed, recent photo of the whole family doing something fun together by their beds. Mail postcards, letters, or little trinkets home in separate envelopes for each child.

And remember that every moment you invest in staying connected will produce great dividends!