Driving home Christmas: It’s peak season for truckers on the road
Estelle Lee·Dec 07, 2023

Driving home Christmas: It’s peak season for truckers on the road

Estelle Lee
Estelle Lee
Contributing Editor
Dec 07, 2023 · 4 min read
How truckers survive peak season | TomTom Newsroom

What springs to mind when you think about Christmas delivered, wrapped and under the tree? The North Pole big chief perhaps (if you’re under ten), or what about the mobilized army of truck drivers, all powering through from Black Friday to Christmas Eve? Here we look at a changed retail landscape in 2023, the impact on transportation, and we talk to three HGV drivers – the real heroes of the season – to discover what it’s really like getting Christmas from A to Z.

Peak season

The period from Black Friday to Christmas, otherwise known in the trade as “peak,” is a hairy but potentially rewarding time for retailers. As families look to wind down at the end of the year, brands are flexing their firepower to capitalize on the annual spike in consumer buying.

The nostalgic days of stampeding queues outside stores may have gone for good, as the pandemic introduced a new era of e-commerce and with it the staggering equivalent of a Black Friday every day. This unprecedented digitization required speedy transformation for businesses to survive and keep up. A challenge worth meeting when a record $9.12 billion was spent online across Black Friday alone last year.

The effect of technological acceleration on the fulfillment sector – and the drivers themselves – is not to be underplayed. Shoppers are always looking for new ways to buy and receive their orders, so the businesses who stepped up to radically transform the way they operate have been the early winners in this new world. Fail to deliver – in any sense – at this time of year, and customers won’t forget in a hurry.

So, logistics managers need to have eyes everywhere and respond to real-time events, even down to the physical obstacles on the road.

Festive flow

The HGV driver is the visible stress-test of the supply chain; dealing with multiple pick-up points, tricky customers, awkward deliveries, returns and precision timings daily. Let alone the obvious impact of weather and traffic.

Polish driver Iwona Blecharczyk describes the pre-Christmas run-up as a whirlwind when her deliveries skyrocket. “It's so much busier and more stressful, and the shorter days add to the pressure.” But even from a road-going truck, festive spirit is abundant. “There's a sense of urgency but also excitement!”

A picture of Iwona Blecharczyk and her TomTom GO Expert.Iwona in her place of "sanctuary," her truck, with the TomTom GO Expert that she uses every day.

Luke C in an HGV,” is a catchily-titled, third-generation British truck driver who, unlike his father and grandfather before him, can now include YouTuber, content creator, and figurehead for the industry on his resume. He regularly works a 60-hour week, so all and any delays are a problem. Road congestion is the number one nuisance at this busy time of year unsurprisingly. “The job is far easier compared to ten years ago. But traffic makes it harder to get as much done.”

Luke keeps the festive show on the road with his easy-going personality and a love of being out on the open highway. “Being able to greet people in a friendly manner and speak to them like you’ve known them for years is what makes the job go smoothly. When the reality is that you’re talking to a random forklift driver on the other side of the country who you’ve never met before.”

Truck driver, Luke C in a HGV, with his TomTom navigation device and beloved truck.It's cold, it's wintry, but LukeCinaHGV still has a smile on his face thanks to his TomTom GO Expert navigation.

Real-time routier

Florian, known as @floriantruck to his many fans on social media, is a French trucker and a self-confessed HGV fanatic. Florian traverses France in his beloved DAF, carrying everything from cigarettes to silage – nostalgically peppering his “day in the life” YouTube reels with the hashtag #routierssontsympa (coined from the vintage French radio show).

French Florian is less bothered by the seasonality of his work in the festive period, since the volume of deliveries doesn’t change, but the pressures do. “The job has become more fast-paced,” he remarks, “and technologies have changed transportation because stocks are often on the road.” For Florian, this complexity means that route planning is done on the go. His TomTom GO Expert navigation device allows him to mentally calculate journey times, fuel and breaks quickly. All of which must be planned to make sure he is at the pick-up point on time and operates within the law.

A picture of TomTom's GO Expert navigation device.The TomTom GO Expert is the navigation device of choice for Florian, Luke and Iwona. Its trucking oriented features prove valuable time and again when out on the road and managing the seasonal peak.

Luke lists the obvious human creature comforts in his truck as nice to haves, but it is the GPS capability with a navigation device like TomTom GO Expert that he relies on for every single journey. “Back in the day people would have to stop and ask for directions now we pop all the delivery postcodes in, and off we go.”

Home stretch

What makes a good trucker is an individual thing. But they share the desire to be on the open road – a far cry from the busy hustle of life at Christmas.

Unlike Florian, Luke isn’t a petrol-head, “I’m not actually a big fan of trucks. What interests me is the pure driving experience. If I didn’t have family commitments, I would be on the road non-stop!”

It is this commitment to the open road lifestyle that attracts Iwona, who thrives on travel, solitude and independence. “My truck isn’t just a vehicle. It's my little world – home, companion and workspace all in one.” For her the big headaches are parking, mandatory rest stops and finding basic facilities with warm showers – simple comforts make life easier when it gets hectic. Her truck is her sanctuary. “It's where I plan routes, manage my social media and find a moment of peace.”

As a meticulous planner of each and every journey she relies heavily on mobile internet, GPS and her TomTom navigation to balance work and communication, connecting with customers, drivers and her social media following.

As the peak tide of the busiest season of the year flows in, Iwona is unperturbed. “It’s all about finding joy in the journey.”

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