Commercial drivers face numerous challenges on the road, often leading to mental strain.
Recognising the importance of their well-being, initiatives have been implemented to improve their welfare.
Prioritising the mental health of truck drivers not only benefits them personally but also enhances road safety and overall productivity.
This article explores the challenges faced by truck drivers, the initiatives taken to support their welfare, and the steps that can be taken to positively impact their mental health.
Challenges Faced by Truck Drivers
Truck drivers face many conditions unusual to other professions. These challenges can have a significant impact on their mental health, leading to feelings of loneliness and increasing the risk of mental health issues. Below are some of the most common challenges faced by HGV and van drivers.
Long Working Hours and Fatigue
The demanding nature of their job often leads truck drivers to work long hours. As a result, they are more likely to experience fatigue, which can have detrimental effects on their mental well-being.
Constantly navigating traffic, adhering to strict delivery schedules, and dealing with unpredictable weather conditions can all contribute to high levels of stress and anxiety. ADR drivers transporting hazardous goods also have to be constantly mindful of the dangerous cargo they are responsible for.
This combination of physical exhaustion and mental strain can have a significant impact on the long-term mental welfare of truck drivers.
Living Conditions on the Road
Long-distance HGV drivers face difficult living conditions on the road, with limited access to basic amenities. Living on the road means that these drivers often struggle to find clean and accessible restrooms, showers, and laundry facilities. They may have to rely on truck stops or rest areas, which may not always provide the necessary facilities or may be overcrowded.
Additionally, finding healthy and affordable food options can be difficult for truck drivers. They often have limited access to grocery stores or restaurants that offer nutritious meals. This can make it challenging to maintain a balanced diet and lead to poor health.
Lack of Access to Healthcare Facilities
The lack of access to healthcare facilities poses significant challenges for drivers. Being constantly on the road, commercial drivers often find it difficult to access necessary medical care. Truck stops and rest areas, where drivers typically take breaks, rarely have any healthcare facilities available.
This lack of access to healthcare can have serious consequences for drivers' physical and mental well-being. Minor health issues that could be easily treated if caught early may worsen due to delayed medical attention. Additionally, the demanding nature of their job, long hours of driving, and irregular sleep patterns can contribute to the development of chronic health conditions.
Mental Health Issues and Loneliness
Truck drivers often experience challenges with their mental health and almost 25% regularly experience loneliness. The nature of their job, which involves long hours on the road and extended periods of time away from home and loved ones, can take a toll on mental health. The isolation and solitude that come with the profession can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression.
Additionally, the stress and pressure of meeting tight deadlines, navigating through traffic and dealing with unpredictable weather conditions can further exacerbate mental health issues. The lack of social interaction and awareness of support networks while on the road can make it difficult for some HGV driver’s emotional well-being.
Initiatives for Improving Truck Drivers' Welfare
To improve truck drivers' welfare, there are several initiatives that are either in place already or in discussion. Read below to discover some of the ways the industry is addressing the concerns faced by HGV drivers.
Regulations to Limit Working Hours
One approach is to establish strict guidelines that limit the number of hours a truck driver can work in a given period. These regulations ensure the well being of HGV drivers and other road users.
The EU rules set a maximum limit of 9 hours of driving in a day for HGV drivers, including 45 minute breaks every 4 hours and 30 minutes. The daily driving limit can be extended to 10 hours twice a week. This ensures that drivers do not exceed their physical and mental limits, reducing the risk of fatigue-related accidents on the road.
Furthermore, EU rules state that drivers should not drive for more than 56 hours in a week or 90 hours in any two consecutive weeks. These limits help prevent drivers from overworking and experiencing exhaustion, allowing them to maintain their well-being and perform their duties safely.
Recognising the importance of regular breaks and sufficient rest, the EU rules mandate that HGV drivers must have at least 11 hours of rest every day. However, drivers have the option to reduce this rest period to 9 hours three times between any two weekly rest periods. This flexibility allows drivers to manage their schedules effectively while still ensuring they get adequate rest.
Development of Rest Areas with Better Living Facilities
Rest areas for truck drivers need to be developed with improved living facilities to enhance their welfare. Currently, many rest areas lack adequate amenities and fail to provide a comfortable environment for truck drivers to rest and rejuvenate.
One initiative to improve truck drivers' welfare is to provide clean and well-maintained restrooms with proper sanitation facilities. Additionally, rest areas should have spacious parking lots with ample lighting and security measures in place to ensure the safety of the drivers and their vehicles.
Government schemes such as the HGV parking and driver welfare grant scheme, have been set up to improve driver well-being. This scheme is available for a number of facilities such as truck stops, motorway services and more, and includes funding to develop:
- Driver welfare facilities such as toilets, showers and rest areas.
- Security for drivers including lighting, CCTV and secure fencing.
- Improved HGV parking capacity.
Accessible Healthcare Services for Truck Drivers
The development of rest areas with better living facilities for truck drivers can also include initiatives to provide accessible healthcare services. Truck drivers often face challenges in accessing proper healthcare due to long hours on the road. Therefore, it's crucial to implement measures that ensure their physical well-being.
The advent of Telehealth (or telemedicine), where medical appointments can be carried out via telephone, has the capacity to help the situation. TECS, as it is known by the NHS, could allow drivers to consult with healthcare professionals remotely, eliminating the need for in-person visits. With more development, these services could help truck drivers get medical advice even on long-haul journeys.
Another method of bringing healthcare to commercial drivers is the development of mobile clinics at rest areas or truck stops, where drivers can receive basic medical check-ups, prescriptions and even consultations with healthcare professionals.
The idea of healthcare units at truck stops and rest areas is already being discussed across the globe. This concept is currently being implemented in the USA where funding is in place for the creation of clinics with prescription services in remote areas to benefit truck drivers, travellers and local residents.
Support Programs for Mental Health and Social Well-Being
Numerous support programs are available to enhance the mental and social well-being of truck drivers. By better understanding the unique challenges faced by these professionals, various systems are in place to provide assistance and promote their welfare.
One such program is the Working Minds campaign set-up by the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE). In partnership with the Road Haulage Association, the HSE’s campaign is aimed at promoting good mental health among HGV drivers and their employers. The campaign addresses the unique challenges faced by drivers, such as long hours away from home, demanding delivery times, and limited access to facilities, which can lead to high levels of stress.
To support drivers, the campaign offers a free and confidential text service called “BeAMate” which is provided by Mates in Mind and offers health support for drivers. The campaign aims to raise awareness and provide support to HGV drivers who may be less likely to express their struggles, and foster a more positive culture around mental health in the logistics industry.
Benefits of Prioritising HGV Drivers' Welfare
Prioritising truck drivers' welfare has numerous benefits. Not only do HGV drivers themselves benefit by improved physical and mental well-being, but other road users can have more confidence on the road.
Improved Road Safety and Reduced Accidents
By prioritising the mental welfare of truck drivers, significant improvements can be made in road safety and a reduction in accidents. Long hours on the road, isolation, and the pressure to meet deadlines can take a toll on truck drivers' mental health, leading to fatigue, stress, and decreased concentration. These factors increase the risk of accidents, not only for the truck drivers themselves but also for other road users.
The introduction of mandatory breaks has seen some startling reductions in the amount of traffic collisions. Studies show that just two breaks can reduce the chance of a crash by up to 83%, while taking a break of at least 30 minutes reduces the chance of a collision between 28-50% compared to the one-hour window before the break.
When truck drivers are well rested, they're better able to focus on the task at hand, make sound decisions and react quickly to potential dangers on the road. Prioritising their mental and physical state can help alleviate these risks, leading to improved road safety, fewer accidents, and ultimately, saving lives.
Increased Productivity and Driver Retention in the Transportation Sector
Workers with good mental health are up to 12% more productive according to research conducted by The Mental Health Foundation. When workers are well-rested, mentally and physically healthy, and supported in their work environment, they're more motivated and engaged in their jobs. This leads to improved job performance and higher levels of productivity.
By taking the health of their drivers into account, companies can reduce turnover rates and the associated costs of recruiting and training new drivers. Staff retention can be a significant problem for the logistics sector, particularly among younger HGV drivers. By the start of 2023, 55,000 drivers had recently left the industry, with under-30s making up 40% of the turnover. The number of HGV drivers under-30 decreased from 30,500 to 12,500, a loss of 18,000 drivers. Some of the top reasons for drivers leaving include long hours, time away from loved ones, stress and exhaustion
Enhanced Mental and Physical Well-Being of Truck Drivers
Sadly, drivers are amongst the most likely to experience poor physical and mental health of any profession. Below are some of the most concerning figures about the well being of HGV and van drivers:
- Van drivers and HGV drivers have 25% and 20% higher suicide rates than the UK average, respectively.
- 48% of commercial drivers struggle to sleep doing shifts and while working unsociable hours.
When logistics companies prioritise the well-being of their drivers, they create a positive work environment that promotes better mental health. This, in turn, leads to increased job satisfaction and reduced stress levels.
Moreover, when truck drivers are healthy, they're better able to handle the physical demands of their job. By investing in the health and wellness of their drivers, companies can reduce the risk of accidents and injuries, something that is especially important when storing hazardous goods.
Supporting Logistics Worker’s Mental Well Being
Ultimately, enhancing the mental and physical well-being of truck drivers benefits both the drivers themselves and the entire transportation sector.
At JJX we do all we can to support our drivers and local mental health awareness campaigns. We are proud to support Black Country Mental Health, a local initiative that helps over 5,000 people in the region via their support line, mental health first-aid courses, walking group and more.
Our partnership with Dudley Mind has enabled us to provide Mental Health First Aid training to our staff through the charity. This training is complemented by our dedicated room for our employees' well-being, which we affectionately refer to as the ‘green room’. It serves as a stress-free zone where employees can receive physical or mental first aid. It's a place where they can come to relax and take a break if needed.