Mental health problems are a common and very serious issue in the transportation industry, yet they are also not often openly talked about. According to an industry survey done in 2017, 918 out 4,000 truck drivers admitted to having experienced mental health problems. That translates to approximately one out of every five truck drivers, which is right in line with the national average for adults in the United States, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Some experts even argue that the number of truck drivers suffering from mental health issues may be higher. One previous survey found that 7 percent of drivers suffered from depression – which is above the national average for adults – and truck drivers also have a higher-than-average suicide rate. Those in the transportation insurance market already know that this risk is high, as driver suicides often occur while on the road. Regardless of numbers and statistics, mental health problems in the transportation industry can not be ignored.
In order to work towards solutions, it’s important to know what the factors are that contribute to these issues. A number of legislative changes have been made in an attempt to improve the mental health of truck drivers, but the nature of the job itself is part of what contributes to mental health problems.
Lack of sleep is thought to be one of the biggest factors involved in exacerbating mental health problems for truck drivers. In response, several changes have been made to regulate the amount of hours that can be spent in the driver’s seat over the course of a certain period of time. Still, with the current regulations, commercial truck drivers can find themselves on the road for up to 70 hours in an eight day period. Much of that time is spent away from home and in places where they might not be getting the best quality sleep.
Even with regulations in place, the daily routine of a truck driver can be extremely stressful. Long-haul truck drivers are especially vulnerable. Staying on route and on schedule, dealing with traffic, witnessing upsetting accidents and experiencing awful behavior from other drivers on a daily basis can be incredibly taxing. Being on the road and not having a way to decompress mentally and even physically can take a huge toll on driver health.
Trucking companies can help by making simple changes such as offering more resources to their drivers and rewarding healthy behaviors. The transportation industry as a whole must work to improve driver health – both mental and physical – because driver health ultimately affects the health of the industry.
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