Since 1949, May has been declared as Mental Health Awareness Month. Its purpose is to raise awareness and educate the public about the importance of mental health and remove the stigma around psychological disorders.
Physical health is a topic that we talk about often as a transportation company. We strive to provide easy access to all available resources so that our drivers can make informed decisions on the road to ensure their safety. When we talk about our health, it’s important to remember that we need to take care of ourselves in all aspects, not just physically, but also mentally. In fact, the Department of Transportation believes mental health is such of high importance a psychological evaluation is needed to qualify for your medical card, which is required for you to drive professionally.
A recent article published by The Atlantic, sheds some light on how being involved in an accident impacts our mental health. It is estimated that close to a third of the 3.5 million truck drivers in the U.S. will be involved in a serious road accident at some point during their careers. That is a significant number of people who will potentially experience a traumatic event. According to the Nebraska Department of Veterans’ Affairs, that event alone is enough to cause Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, (PTSD). While most survivors of a trauma can return to a normal routine after some time, others will have more difficulty finding normalcy.
Due to the nature of the industry, those that have lingering effects of PTSD may feel those emotions magnified when they return to work, as they are away from their emotional support system for long stretches of time. The National Institute of Health recently surveyed more than 300 male professional drivers between the ages of 23 and 76 and found “that roughly 28% suffered from loneliness, 27% experienced depression, 21% reported chronic sleep issues, 15% endured anxiety and the remaining 13% accounted for other emotional issues.” One of these “emotional issues” can be enough to have an impact on the quality of work you perform, and when your work can directly affect the motoring public around you, it needs to be taken seriously.
Many workplaces are now offering programs geared towards improving the mental health of their employees. Whether it is taking a unique approach to improving their employee’s work-life balance or offering counseling services, the stigma of mental health is slowly fading away.
Throughout the month of May we will be talking about the warning signs of PTSD, how to recognize if there is a problem and the resources available.
It is safe to say that the trucking industry has changed over the years. The type of equipment we use, the training required and many other things have made us change the way we do business, but do those changes impact how we do our jobs? Acting like a professional does not mean we need a certain type of truck. It is making that conscientious effort to pay attention to how we are presenting ourselves to the public and to the customers.
You are the company to our customers. When you are picking up or delivering a shipment, make sure you are presenting yourself that way. This doesn’t require a uniform or a shirt and tie. Think about it this way, if you go to a restaurant and the wait staff comes out in dirty pants and holes in their shirts your impression of the restaurant changes, right? It’s the same way for professional drivers. How you act, talk and dress is a reflection of the company you work for.
Showing pride in the workplace
When you leave a trailer in poor condition or trash the inside of your truck, you are nonverbally saying you aren’t proud of the company you work for. For the majority of drivers, the truck is your home away from home. Why wouldn’t you take care of your home? I once read an article where said if a driver had litter strewn across their dashboard it gave a pretty good indication that he didn’t care of the outside. Take care of the equipment you use, it’s that simple.
I cannot stress this one enough. Things happen on the road we get it. Weather delays, breakdowns and about a million other things can cause you to miss a deadline, but you need to communicate that to your team so they can relay that information to the customer. Making excuses and showing up late is not the professional way to handle those situations.
You are the professional. No one else had to go through the training, school and background checks to like you did in order to get behind the wheel. Lead by example, use the SMITH system and always use the 5 Keys of Safety. While we know the vehicle who just cut you off is annoying, tailgating him is not the answer.
Tim Hicks has worked for XPO Logistics for 24 years and currently serves as the driver advocate for our professional drivers.
Distracted Driving Awareness Month Tips from ATA’s Share the Road Program
Stay Focused –Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road at all times. One small distraction can cause an accident.
Put Electronic Devices Away – Put your cell phone away, as well as all electronics, while behind the wheel. Nothing is more important than focusing on the road ahead and getting to your destination safely.
Plan, Know Your Route– Plan your route ahead of time so you aren’t distracted looking at a map or navigation system. Pay attention to highway signs and traffic.
Be Aware of Blind spots– Trucks have large blind spots in front, back and either side. Try to avoid lingering in this space and do not cut in front of a truck.
Be a Good Passenger – Speak up if the driver in your car is doing something that distracts from full-focus on driving and the road ahead.
Did you know?
- Writing or reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. At 55 MPH, that’s like driving the length of a football field – blindfolded.
- If you text while you’re behind the wheel, you’re 20 times more likely to be involved in a crash than a non-distracted driver.
- Talking on a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity devoted to driving by 37%.
- 45 states and the District of Columbia ban text messaging for all drivers.
- 14 states and the District of Columbia prohibit hand-held cell phone use by all drivers.
- Young people are especially at risk: In 2011, 11% of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted.