Trucking can be a pressurised environment at the best of times. Add a global pandemic like we’ve seen with Covid-19, and that pressure keeps on rising. Now more than ever, fleet managers need to do everything they can to ensure the health and wellbeing of their truck drivers.
It’s a tricky balance. On one hand, you want to maintain operational efficiency. On the other is the task of not exposing any truck drivers to unnecessary risks. It’s an ongoing struggle, and one that has the mental health of drivers at the heart of the issue.
Around 35% of illness at work in the transport industry is attributed to issues with mental health (although that figure is likely to be higher, considering the stigma surrounding the issue).
When a truck driver is struggling with their mental health, they are unlikely to tell their manager. And truck drivers tend to have higher levels of obstructive sleep apnoea (a condition that increases the likelihood of a driver being involved in a crash) compared with the population at large.
Ongoing research at Loughborough University – the SHIFT study – highlights an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes and the barriers faced by truck drivers when it comes to health, fitness and wellbeing. The SHIFT study also reveals that more than 40% of truck drivers in the UK suffer from anxiety and depression.
There is clearly a need for a robust wellbeing programme for truck drivers. Here are some ideas about what fleet managers should include in theirs:
1 Eye exercises: Hours spent behind the wheel are going to take their toll on the eyes. Tired eyes and blurred vision don’t mix well with long-distance driving, so exercises such as rolling your eyes back and forth can give them a lift. Shifting your focus from one place to another can also be a great help.
2 A clean cab: Tidiness is next to godliness, or so they say. It’s really important, especially right now, to keep cabs clean and free of germs. A quick wipe of the steering wheel and dashboard with antibacterial wipes is advised to keep drivers safe.
3 Don’t rely on energy drinks: Yes they give you a lift, but that’s often followed by a huge slump. Too much sugar drains energy levels, not boosts them. Water and the occasional coffee are much better options.
At times like these, staying safe, healthy and mentally strong isn’t easy for truck drivers. But the more fleet managers can do to minimise the risks will make driving jobs easier and boost truck drivers’ health and wellbeing.