Truck driver mental health should be a major topic for discussion in the transportation industry. The stressful working and living conditions of the average trucker can lead to significant physical, mental, and emotional health problems. A review of several published studies on the topic concluded a high risk for truck driver health and safety due to untreated mental health problems. Mental health issues for truckers often stem from isolation, sleep problems, alcohol/drug misuse, job strain, fatigue, depression, and anxiety. Improve the mental health of your truckers with the following best practices.
Allow Co-Pilots Whenever Possible
Social isolation can significantly contribute to truck driver mental health issues. Solitude for hours on end eliminates meaningful relationships and can take a toll on mental health. Having a co-pilot can keep a truck driver’s spirits up and help prevent loneliness. Having a passenger in the truck can alleviate stress and provide a support system for both workers. A company policy that allows co-pilots such as friends, spouses, or even pets whenever possible could improve mental health and keep spirits up, especially on long-haul trips.
Test for Sleep Apnea
Undiagnosed sleep problems can contribute to mental health issues by causing fatigue, stress, and anxiety. Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders among truckers. Around 28% of commercial truck drivers suffer from sleep apnea. This is a breathing disorder that can interrupt sleep. It is a potentially life-threatening condition that often remains undiagnosed. Enforce sleep apnea screening tests among your drivers, and make them aware of common risk factors. These include obesity, smoking, alcohol, and a family history of sleep apnea. Helping truck drivers diagnose and treat sleep apnea can lead to better mental health.
Encourage Healthy Routines
Physical health problems can cause or exacerbate mental health ones. It is important to encourage healthy routines and diets among your drivers. Long hours sitting in the same position, eating unhealthy truckstop food, and sleep problems have led to an obesity epidemic in the trucking industry. Truck drivers have higher rates of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease compared to other U.S. adult workers. Physical health issues can lead to depression and contribute to problems such as sleep apnea. Encouraging exercise routines and a good diet can help keep the mind and body healthy on the road.
Permit Comforts From Home
Allow your truck drivers to bring comforts from home with them on the road. These can include televisions, radios, blankets, quality bedding, favorite music, etc. Having reminders of home can make a truck driver feel more comfortable and get a better night’s sleep. It can also help truckers follow routines that are similar to the ones they have when they aren’t working, which can help mental health.
Use Technology to Improve Life on the Road
Smart transportation technology has the power to improve life on the road for long-haul truckers. You can optimize drivers’ time on the road by shortening trips and improving driver quality of life. Meanwhile, technology such as wearable devices could keep drivers more in touch with their loved ones, while smartwatches can encourage better health. You may be able to improve driver retention and tackle common mental health challenges with the right technology solutions.
Editor’s note: This blog was originally written for the GTG Technology Group, What Can Trucking Companies Do to Improve Mental Health for Truckers?