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Mental Health in Truck Drivers

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and it’s especially important for truckers. 

Due to the challenges of their work, truckers are at greater risk of mental health issues than many other professionals. Their determination, can-do attitude, and self-reliance can also conceal some downsides. 

A survey of truck drivers aged 23-76 showed

  • 27.9% reported loneliness 
  • 26.9% reported depression 
  • 20.6% reported chronic sleep disturbances 

The Biggest Mental Health Risk Factors for Truckers 

Conditions like anxiety and depression can worsen with social isolation. Spending 11 hours a day on the road, many truckers are away from their support network for most of their professional lives. This also makes it harder to access care for mental and physical health issues. 

Ordinary workplace stress is another issue. Chronic stress goes beyond mental health and has a variety of physical effects. Plus, it can motivate truckers to take risks they shouldn’t, which can endanger them and others on the road. It only takes one accident to severely damage your brand’s reputation. 

What’s more, reduced or poor quality sleep can worsen virtually all mental health woes. If truckers are not getting enough rest, impaired reaction time is only one of the problems they’ll face. Over time, any of these factors – or a combination – can leave them vulnerable to serious complications. 

Of course, only a minority of people who become truckers will face serious mental health worries. Of those, many will make the decision to find another line of work. But mental health is complex. Unlike the movies, it doesn’t always look like a crying fit or a screaming breakdown. 

Truckers might feel like they are doing everything right and following the rules. Like the proverbial frog in the boiling pot, they might not notice “the heat is on” until something serious happens. Luckily, you can have their back. 

How You Can Encourage Better Mental Health in Your Truckers 

Your business and its customers rely on your truck fleet. But as recent supply chain problems show, it is not always easy to replace an experienced trucker. As mental health goes unaddressed, turnover grows more likely, and that can sideline important opportunities for your business. 

The best way to help truckers manage their mental health is to be proactive: 

1. Build a Culture of Safety 

Every American is familiar with the cartoon stereotype of truckers “popping caffeine pills” as they drive through the night to make a deadline. Regulations have become more strict, but they make a difference only when truckers are not penalized for following them. Discouraging risky behavior not only protects life and property, but lowers the overall stress level truckers deal with every day. 

2. Use Fleet Management Technology 

Fleet management technology can serve as an early warning system when something is amiss. You can start making inferences about how an individual driver is feeling based on changes over time. The right technology will also help you fine-tune routes to ensure on-time delivery while alleviating unnecessary risks. All of this can work to the advantage of your workforce development strategy. 

3. Encourage Stronger Social Bonds 

You can encourage stronger ties to the community with group social events or simply by providing your truckers with ample PTO and opportunities for rest. Be sure every member of your workforce is aware of mental health resources they can access, too. 

Mental health affects your entire fleet. A few simple, low-cost policy changes can help. Just by remaining aware of your employees’ needs and opening the door for them to get the help they need, you can make a significant difference in their lives while protecting your investments.