All That's Trucking

Drivers at Risk for Mental Illness?

March 23, 2016

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Photo: Flickr user Bjørn Bulthuis
Photo: Flickr user Bjørn Bulthuis

A fleet safety manager I interviewed once, talking about the problems with how the federal government doesn't take into account whose fault crashes are when rating motor carriers, told me about a recent incident where someone had committed suicide by leaping off an overpass into the path of one of his trucks.

My first thought was how awful that must have been for the driver. But I admit I didn't think about the fact that he or she might actually develop post traumatic stress disorder.

An article in The Atlantic, "PTSD in the Driver’s Seat," posted on its website this week, points out that PTSD and other mental issues can certainly arise from such an incident -- or even lesser crashes.

"Around 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," notes the article. "That’s a lot of people — more than a million — experiencing potentially severe job-related trauma."

"No matter the cause ... being involved in an accident can leave lasting mental scars. Being in a wreck — or even seeing one — can cause enough stress and anxiety to become a diagnosable mental illness, like acute stress disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)."

The article also points out that many of these drivers will not get treatment for mental disorders, both because men (who make up the vast majority of the driver workforce) are less likely to seek treatment than women, and also because the nature of the job makes it difficult to get any medical treatment, much less mental health care.

While fleets are setting up wellness programs to address issues such as smoking, obesity and sleep apnea, they might want to think about access to mental health care as well.

I'd like to hear from you: Does your company have any programs addressing the mental health of drivers? Drivers, have you experienced traumatic incidents on the road that haunt you?


  1. 1. Anne [ March 24, 2016 @ 03:19AM ]

    At least 25 years ago, the potential need for a commercial driver SAP referral prompted the implementation of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at our company. It came with a range of licensed counselors. Over the years, the counseling portion of the program has had much more use than the SAP side. Just this week, one of our drivers was drawn into a fatality, through absolutely no fault of his own. He was devastated. I immediately alerted the EAP crisis management team. They were amazing and our driver is doing much better as a result. The point is this: if you have a SAP referral service, you may already have immediate access to this kind of health care professional.

  2. 2. Pete Carpenedo [ March 25, 2016 @ 11:01AM ]

    This is a very interesting and past-due subject. As a former driver and one who has had the pleasure of jumping 'k' rail in a loaded gasoline tanker, I still feel the effects 20 plus years later. Drop a fork on a tile floor and I still jump. I did go through a psychological evaluation but two things; I needed the job so I was less-than-honest and no one was talking about PTSD. I've known drivers to quit after an incident even when it wasn't their fault. Let's keep this in the foreground and maybe there can be compensation and help for legitimate cases.

  3. 3. Doug Marcus [ June 11, 2016 @ 02:36AM ]

    I wonder why a school would recruit prospects who, because of their age can't become employed. Having to wait until they are 21 to drive interstate and needing to retrain because of a loss of skills just doubles the cost.
    I'm sure a small percentage might actually get intrastate jobs, but the vast majority have nothing to show for premature effort.


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Deborah Lockridge

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All That's Trucking blog is just that – the editor's take on anything and everything related to trucking, with the help of guest posts from other HDT editors. Author Deborah Lockridge's career as an award-winning trucking journalist started in 1990.


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