1.5% of the American population suffers from depression. In comparison, 13.6% of truck drivers suffer from some level of depression, meaning your drivers are nine times more likely to experience depression than the average American, a staggering difference.
Like with all illnesses, increased rates of depression correlate with increased rates of driver turnover. Fortunately, there are several steps your fleet can take to make sure your drivers are staying safe with their driving and their well-being.
#1 Maintain Genuine Relationships With Your Drivers
A lack of human connection is one of the key indicators of depression, so it’s important to remember how often your drivers are alone in their cab. The Safety Manager/driver relationship is typically two-fold: staying in regular contact with your drivers and, more importantly, making sure your interactions are meaningful.
One suggestion to make sure your driver interactions are more meaningful is keeping track of important dates like drivers’ birthdays and anniversaries, so you can give them a call and remind them they’re appreciated. Also, consider keeping tabs on your drivers’ favorite sports team or interests and mention them when you’re checking in. You don’t need to be best friends with your drivers to show them you care and help make their experience on the road better.
#2 Give Your Drivers Control
The 13.6% of truck drivers who suffer from depression also identified low perceived control over one’s job as a primary factor. Similar research shows that a lack of autonomy can lead people to feel like they’re not in control of their lives. Giving drivers some say in their routes can provide them with the feeling of autonomy. Similarly, performance development plans—especially those that let drivers decide which skills to improve—can give them a better sense of meaning and progression in their careers.
#3 Promote a Culture of Health & Safety
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), exercise is one of the most effective depression treatments available. A study on the relationship between exercise and depression revealed that regular, moderate-intensity exercise can increase depression treatment success by 67% to 74%. Even walking at a slightly elevated pace was found to be an effective depression treatment.
Providing information to your drivers on staying healthy and simple exercises that can be easily worked into their daily habits is a great start. Also, consider awarding incentives to drivers who make exercise a regular part of their routines.
#4 Invest in a Sunlamp
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that typically occurs during the fall and winter. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), an estimated 10 to 20 percent of recurrent depression cases follow a seasonal pattern, making this a relatively common occurrence among the general population. Given that drivers are at increased risk for generalized depression, it’s likely they’re at increased risk for SAD too.
The Mayo Clinic lists light therapy as a staple treatment for seasonal depression. During low-light seasons, drivers should expose themselves to 20-30 minutes of sun-lamp exposure within an hour of waking up.
#5 Make Sure Drivers Are Getting Adequate Sleep
According to Harvard Medical School’s March 2019 Mental Health Letter, “Sleep problems may increase risk for developing particular mental illnesses” and “treating sleep disorders may help alleviate symptoms of a mental health problem.”
Sleep and mental health are biochemically interlinked. Sleep disruption—which increases stress hormones released, among other dangers—wreaks havoc on the brain, impairing thinking and emotional regulation. Meaning, insomnia may amplify depression and even impair a driver’s ability to effectively use safety practices on the road.
Safety managers can ensure drivers are getting adequate sleep by using these three tips to help drivers reach their ideal sleeping conditions. Tools like the Idelic Safety Suite can also identify at-risk drivers by displaying CPAP data alongside your other systems’ data.
At Idelic, we take safety seriously and encourage safe practices of all kinds, including those related to mental health. Watch a short video on how you can simplify your safety and keep your drivers feeling safe and driving safer here.
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