Quiet stretches of highway, the freedom of the open road, and long-term job stability—the life of a truck driver is an attractive one for many. But as with any job, it has its own unique set of challenges. At the top of the list is mental health and wellness—a topic that isn’t often talked about in the trucking industry, but should be.
Driving training schools worth their salt will teach you the basics of safe driving. But the more important lessons are often relegated to the sidelines. So we’re using our platform to discuss the importance of mental health maintenance for long-haul drivers. After all, a healthy driver is a productive and safe one.
Mental Health Challenges Truckers Face
In a 2012 study of professional truck drivers, the following were identified:
28% truckers suffered from loneliness
27% were depressed
21% experienced chronic sleep disturbances
14.5% had anxiety
13% reported other emotional issues
These mental health challenges can lead to higher rates of fatigue, inattention, and poor decision-making. All of which are dangerous for long-haul drivers who need to stay alert and focused at all times.
Understanding the Obstacles
There are a lot of benefits to being a truck driver. But proper mental health maintenance should be a priority as well—especially when you consider the obstacles drivers face. To fully understand these challenges, it helps to know the common causes of stress and depression among long-haul drivers.
1. The Stigma of the Tough Trucker
In Canada, over 97% of truckers are male. This has created an atmosphere of “toughness” in the industry. Unfortunately, this means that truckers are often less likely to admit to needing help with mental health issues.
2. Prolonged Isolation
Long-haul drivers are often on the road for days or weeks at a time, which can be incredibly isolating. With limited interaction with family and friends, this prolonged separation can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
3. Sedentary Lifestyle
Spending long hours sitting in a truck can lead to physical problems, such as neck and muscle pain. This lack of movement can also contribute to depression due to a decrease in endorphins.
The average truck driver drives approximately 500 miles a day. That’s a lot of time sitting behind the wheel.
4. Job Demands
Driving for long periods of time can take a toll both mentally and physically. Not only are drivers expected to stay awake and alert, but they’re often under pressure to make delivery deadlines. This pressure can lead to increased stress and anxiety.
5. Exposure to Accident and Injury Risks
There are a multitude of risks associated with long-haul driving, such as weather conditions, traffic congestion, and other drivers. All these factors can lead to potentially dangerous situations, which can increase stress and anxiety. That’s why driver training schools should set a strong emphasis on safety as well.
6. Personal Concerns
With all these work-related risks and concerns, truck drivers are juggling these alongside their personal concerns. This can be especially difficult when serious matters happen at home and at work—it will just be hard to focus while driving.
Given all these obstacles, driver training schools should educate drivers on how they can prioritize good mental health and wellness while on the road. This will help them balance their workloads better and give them the tools to manage stress.
Mental Health and Wellbeing Support for Truckers
As a trucker, it’s important to take proactive measures to prioritize your mental health. As reputable driving training schools teach you to be a safe driver, it’s also important to equip you with the skills and knowledge needed to maintain your mental well-being.
This includes knowing the signs of mental health issues, understanding how to manage stress and anxiety, and having access to resources such as counselors or support groups.
The IHSA (International Health Service Association) has also released a set of guidelines on mental health and well-being for truckers. One for drivers and one for employers.
Mental Health and Wellness—Dispatcher/Supervisor
Mental Health and Wellness—Professional Truck Drivers
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) has put in place Healthy Minds@Work as well, which is an initiative to promote mental health and well-being in the workplace.
Why The Conversation Matters
It’s important to recognize the mental health and well-being challenges that truckers face. By normalizing the conversation, we can open the door to more resources, support systems, and training to help prevent and address these issues.
Proactive steps such as providing mental health education as well as creating an open dialogue between dispatchers and drivers—can go a long way in ensuring that truckers have access to the support they need.
Not to mention, the benefits of having a healthy trucking workforce:
1. It Improves Job Performance and Safety
Being able to work smoothly and undistracted is refreshing, right? The same applies to truck drivers. When they’re mentally healthy and well, their job performance will be improved, reducing the risk of accidents or mishaps.
2. Reduced Burnout
Driving for most of the day is exhausting, especially when the traffic is heavier than usual and the drive is across distant provinces. With driver training schools giving focus on safety and mental health, it will help drivers feel more relaxed and stress-free. This way, they can drive with ease, not forgetting to take short rests in between trips.
3. Enhanced Quality of Life
When truckers are able to prioritize their mental health and well-being, they can enjoy a better quality of life. They’ll be better equipped to handle the stress and demands of their job, while also feeling good about themselves. This can lead to improved relationships with their families, friends, and colleagues.
4. Compliance With Regulations
In Canada, 30% of disability claims have been attributed to mental health issues. Setting in place a program to take care of mental health and well-being can help truckers comply with regulations and reduce the risk of disability costs for their company. Not to mention, it can also help them keep up with the demands of their job, leading to improved customer service.
Strike a Conversation
The first step to being aware of your drivers’ mental health is asking them how they are doing or feeling about their job. While this is easy, it is crucial in determining the next steps a company should take to maintain a good mental health state among their truck drivers.
Consistency is key when you’d like to keep your employees in a good state and fit for work. Here are some things you can do to better your drivers’ mental health:
- Provide resources and support for mental health awareness. This can come in the form of self-help books, podcasts, and recreational activities.
- Have regular check-ins and wellness assessments, like quick catch-ups or spontaneous non-work related talks just to have a break from occupation-related concerns.
- Encourage healthy habits on the road. This includes having light physical activities or eating meals that aren’t just processed and reheated quickly.
- Implement flexible schedules. This is to provide them with more time with their families and leisure; allowing them to be with themselves and do things outside work.
Better yet, create a driver-friendly culture. This ensures that the driver’s voices are heard and their concerns are addressed whenever they come up.
Invest in Safety and Mental Health
Going the extra mile and investing in safety and mental health can go a long way. It starts by equipping yourself or your truckers with the right tools to handle the demands of their job—such as enrolling in a reputable driving training school. But it doesn’t end there. Mental health is a continuous journey of taking care of oneself, and it requires more than just self-care. It requires an understanding that mental health is a priority not just for the business but for their careers as well.
Want to take the first step towards ensuring that your truckers are well-equipped to tackle anything that comes their way while on the job? Our lines here at Gennaro Transport Training are open. Let’s connect today!