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Driver mental health, are you paying attention?

We delve into the health & wellbeing of commercial drivers, it's time for improvements.

By Andrea EastonPublished 2 years ago 3 min read
Driver mental health, are you paying attention?
Photo by Lex Valishvili on Unsplash

Mental health is or should be, a concern for all employers. It is, however, fair to say that some occupations are particularly likely to trigger mental health issues. HGV driving is definitely one of them. This means that employers need to be particularly careful to take care of their drivers.

Thankfully, Emma Tyrer, Head of Finance and Operations at Fleetex & Walker Movements, specialists in the transport industry, shares her view on how employers can improve their drivers mental health.

An interesting report called The SHIFT Study, presented data that showed several key stats which could impact a drivers mental health and overall physical health. It’s no surprise that HGV drivers spend long hours sitting, which ultimately can impact other areas of their health including weight, sleep and social interaction.

By Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The reasons why HGV drivers are at high risk

HGV driving tends to involve people spending extended periods alone. This can put a strain on personal relationships. It can also make it difficult for drivers to build and utilize everyday social support networks. This can lead to feelings of loneliness.

When drivers face challenges at work, they often face them when they are physically alone. This can make situations seem (or even be) more difficult than they would have been if a driver had been with other people. These stressors can lead to drivers adopting unhealthy behaviours such as smoking.

It can also be difficult for drivers to lead a healthy lifestyle. They have to spend most of their time sitting, around 12.5 hours a day to be exact, and get limited opportunities for any sort of exercise, however exercise for HGV drivers is achievable.

Service stations might not necessarily the best places to get healthy food. Even when healthy options are available, drivers may be drawn into unhealthy “comfort eating”. They may also struggle to sleep in hotels.

Address the issues you can tackle

If you do as much as you can to lower the causes of mental health issues, then you have a good chance of lowering the instances of mental-health issues. Here are some specific actions you can take.

By why kei on Unsplash

Make sure drivers can connect

Reach out to them and make sure they can reach out to you. Check that they are staying in hotels with decent WiFi access and consider providing them with a MiFi device as a backup. Internet calls/chat tend to be much more affordable than regular phone calls and hence make it easier for drivers to keep in touch with family and friends.

Organize work effectively

Effectively means maximizing efficiency insofar as reasonably possible while remembering that your drivers are people, not machines. In particular, create delivery schedules that recognize that the unexpected can and will happen from time to time.

Also, use technology and support staff to lighten workloads as much as possible. For example, do whatever you can to minimize the amount of admin work your drivers have to complete.

Encourage healthy living

You cannot force your employees to lead healthy lifestyles. You can, however, offer them resources to help them to do so if they wish. There may be a limit to how much help you can offer drivers when they are on the road. You should, however, do what you can. For example, you could offer them access to meditation and mental-health apps.

Proactively address mental health concerns

You can stave off a lot of mental health issues through good management practices. It is, however, almost inevitable, that some employees will experience them. Management should make sure that there is support available for these employees. Ideally, employees should be able to self-refer themselves to it.

Managers should also be trained to spot the signs of employees experiencing mental health issues. They should be guided on appropriate strategies for engaging with them respectfully.

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About the Creator

Andrea Easton

Andrea Easton is the Head of Finance and Operations at Fleet Ex who specialise in quality ex-fleet/end of lease trucks and trailers and are global leaders in the trucking industry.

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