How’s My Driving? - Safe Driving Blog Tips
During an ordinary year it’s estimated that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in the UK, and this number is expected to dramatically rise as a direct result of the pandemic. 2020 has been a year of the unknown, with new twist and turns at every corner and throughout some of the toughest times our key workers kept this country running, from nurses, teachers to professional drivers and more. Therefore now, more than ever, it’s crucial we support our workers and take steps to prevent any mental ill-health as a result from the stress and pressure this year has caused. Mental health problems that occur among workers are said to cost the UK between £70-£100 billion per year, so not only will addressing the issue be hugely beneficial to the individuals but also the wider economy.
Pressure amongst professional drivers
The logistics industry in particular have been rapidly recruiting and training existing staff to cope with the increased demand and pressure the last 12 months have added, therefore amongst other groups, professional drivers have been identified as high-risk when it comes to mental health.
It’s commonly known that stress related illnesses, including depression and anxiety, can often arise and be intensified in the workplace. LGV and HGV drivers are particularly vulnerable to mental health problems, with a typical working day consisting of hours of intense concentration, pressured time constraints, unknown traffic conditions and demanding delivery objectives. The current climate has meant that whilst they once might have seen smiling faces at their regular pit stops, they are now being greeted with a lack of open facilities, food and human interaction.
It is estimated that 35% of work illness in the transport and logistics industry is due to mental ill-health (this statistic is taken from those who have self-reported, therefore the real figure may be even higher). Issues such as poor physical health due to lack of regular exercise, an unhealthy diet, poor quality of sleep and long periods of time away from loved ones can all be seen as contributing factors.
The SHIFT Study (Clemes, S.A. et al 2017-2020) is an on-going longitudinal study run by Loughborough University and takes place with 24 transport depots owned by DHL. The in-depth study focuses on the impact that increasing physical activity, improving diet and reducing sitting can have on professional drivers. Those who drive for a living are said to have much higher levels of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) than the general population; drivers diagnosed with OSA were found to be 3x more likely to lose concentration whilst driving and have an collision.
‘Long-distance lorry drivers are more likely to be overweight or obese than those working in other occupations. This increases their risk of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and sleep disturbances. Due to the nature of their jobs, lorry drivers are faced with many barriers when it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle. They spend long periods of time sitting, their opportunities to be physically active while at work are limited, the food available at rest stops tends to be unhealthy, and working shifts means they get less sleep. As a consequence of these working conditions and unhealthy lifestyle choices, lorry drivers have a lower life expectancy than the average working person. They are currently an ‘at-risk’ and underserved group in terms of health promotion efforts. Given the well-being of lorry drivers can directly affect the safety of other road users. They also have a large prevalence of anxiety and depression at over 40%.
Working together to address mental health
For the past 24 months, How’s My Driving? have been supporting the Driving Better Mental Health Campaign in Logistics; a nationwide tour of the Battling Suicide Bus encouraging people to play a short game of 5asideCHESS as a way of reaching out to combat loneliness and isolation. The game can be played whilst wearing a face covering and at a safe distance. Recognising the link between the increasing isolation of professional driving and mental health is the first step in prevention.
Fleet managers: what can you do?
More emphasis on the mental health and wellbeing of drivers can be key to safety and risk management within a fleet. Although telematics data plays an important role in driver safety, focusing on the driver before they get in the vehicle, can potentially prevent incident from happening. Engaging with drivers to understand any issues they are facing can help fleet managers better design their fleet to suit the needs of both the driver and the business. How’s My Driving? not only provides a comprehensive fleet management service, but also allows managers the opportunity to provide bespoke driver training, have open discussions regarding public feedback and praise for recognition of safe driving.
Leo Burdock, Director for Ambulance Services 24, has been a part of the How’s My Driving? service scheme for a several years and had this to say about the scheme and the opportunities for driver CPD training and support,
“My business is obviously focused on personal service and high-quality medical care. I believe the How’s My Driving service blends perfectly with our ethos as it allows us all to understand the implications of our driving styles and heightens our awareness. As a business owner, it allows me to offer my drivers any extra support and training they need in a timely way which addresses a direct concern.”
Other aids that can also be put in place to support employees are confidential helplines, mental health first aiders, post incident review meetings and fully trained managers. Driver health and wellbeing is always a significant issue, but this year more than ever, COVID-19 is bringing to light the importance of addressing and supporting those key workers.
Changing attitudes and the stigma towards mental health, particularly in male dominated industries, which HGV drivers and fleets usually are, is not something that will be accomplished overnight. However, by working together to create opportunities for employers and employees to openly discuss mental health and wellbeing is a key stepping stone.
If you are a driver and would like to discuss how you’re feeling, there are many people waiting to listen:
- Samaritans - Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair. Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline). Website: www.samaritans.org
- CALM - CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35. Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight). Website: www.thecalmzone.net
- Anxiety UK - Charity providing support if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety condition. Phone: 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 10pm; Saturday to Sunday, 10am to 8pm). Website: www.anxietyuk.org.uk
- Mind - Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems. Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm). Website: www.mind.org.uk
*Clemes, S.A. et al., (2019). A cluster randomised controlled trial to investigate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of a Structured Health Intervention For Truckers (the SHIFT study): a study protocol. BMJ Open, [Online] Volume 9(11), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31767581
30 January 2021