Healthy Mind – Healthy Driver

As an employer you would notice if a member of staff arrived to work on crutches, their leg confined to a cast or splint. But what about a condition you couldn’t see, something on the inside less apparent to the eye but no less important. Would you notice an employee suffering from mental health issues? What if that employee was an HGV driver working a 60-hour week away from home, how would you know they were suffering, and how could you provide support?

Not only do we have a duty of care to our drivers we must also remember that HGV drivers are the lifeblood of the UK industry, and with a national driver shortage, maintaining a healthy workforce is essential to any company’s success. But are we doing enough to keep their minds healthy? How healthy are the minds of our HGV Drivers?

HGV drivers can be particularly vulnerable to mental health problems. A study conducted by mental health charity MIND found that 30% of illnesses in the transport and logistics industry are mental health-related, and because these cases were self-reported, this figure may actually be a lot higher.

The role itself can be isolating, with a standard working day often including long hours of intense concentration, strict time constraints, demanding delivery targets and heavy traffic conditions. Plus, long periods of time away from family can become a contributing factor to depression. Whilst there are no set causes for mental health problems, it can be aggravated by poor physical health due to a lack regular exercise, an unhealthy diet and insufficient quality of sleep – issues which are common amongst HGV drivers.

As a recruitment agency specialising in HGV drivers, Silver Arrow face the challenge of addressing what can be described as a taboo subject in such a male dominated industry. Furthermore, men are statistically less likely to speak up about a mental health problem, which left untreated could have devastating effects, not only for the driver but the safety of the general public.

Having a mental health illness does not always mean a person cannot drive safely, and currently there are no mental health problems which will automatically prevent someone from driving, however there are those of which will need to be disclosed to the DVLA and others that only need to be disclosed if they affect someone’s ability to drive. What’s more, a driver could be fined up to £1,000 if they withhold information about a condition which could affect their driving and could be prosecuted if they are involved in an accident as a result.

So what can be done to help?

As employers in the transport and logistics industry, although we are not trained mental health professionals, there are small steps we can put in place to consider the wellbeing of our drivers, ultimately protecting them and by product, the general public.

Recognise – Has there been a change in personality or behaviour in a member of staff? Has there been a change to personal circumstances? Is the person displaying signs of aggression or refusing to co-operate? Have you been unable to contact the driver on shift and is this out of character? When talking to them on the phone do they seem distant?

Talk – At Silver Arrow we understand the importance of building relationships with our drivers. Our consultants are tasked to call all working drivers at least once a week. Not just to ask for their time-sheet or to discuss an infringement, but to simply say hello, how are you? How is your week going? One call could make a huge difference to a persons mood and outlook on the day, it could make them feel more valued and that someone cares.

According to the RTITB; “One of the most effective ways to address mental health problems among LGV drivers, and a big step towards recovery, is to talk to them. There are more conversations about mental health happening, but with 1 in 4 people said to experience a mental health problem in any given year, we all have a responsibility to do more to help tackle these issues.”

Advice – ‘Mind’ are a registered charity who provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem, and campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.

Employee Champions – Do you have an employee who could act as a champion? A point of contact to provide information on the best people to talk to for someone who may be suffering? Employee champions can help to drive change internally and help to embed positive changes into a workplace through tackling the stigma of mental health, putting in place initiatives and generally getting the conversation started.

As an HGV Driver Agency, at Silver Arrow our drivers are a valuable resource, they are not just a number or an extra shift, we believe there should be no difference in the support given to a colleague sat in the next room to that of a driver sat in a heavy goods vehicle. It is time that we as an industry recognise the impact mental health can have upon a person and put steps in place to support our drivers, not only because it will keep your trucks running, but isn’t it just the right thing to do?

Silver Arrow are a specialist recruitment agency focused on the logistics and transport sectors. We have high quality & compliant HGV Drivers available to start immediately.