According to behavioural sciences research from the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) a key element to improving mental health and wellbeing is driver engagement.
Throughout Brake’s Road Safety Week 2020 (November 16-22), IAM RoadSmart drew on findings from its annual Safety Culture
Rosie Sharp of TRL recently hosted a seminar titled ‘Mental health and wellbeing: looking after your drivers’ at the 2020 Virtual Fleet And Mobility Live event. Here, she called out that providing driver feedback and thoughts on break points both at the beginning and end of shift patterns, could help improve driver mental health and wellbeing.
As is all too familiar in the transport and logistics industry, those who drive for work are more likely to experience poor mental health due to a number of factors such as unpredictable journey times, congestion, tight deadlines, increased workload and a general lack of social and human interaction. Completely understandable, given that commercial drivers can spend up to 40+ hours per week alone in their cabs, away from loved ones and physical office locations.
In her session, Sharp highlighted that the use of technology across organisations enables fleet operators to track, and easily spot changes in driver behaviour which may be out of the ordinary. This data can be used to pinpoint anomalies, alerting the operator that their otherwise excellent driver may be suddenly breaking harshly or cornering due to personal reasons they wouldn’t necessarily be aware of.
“It’s a challenge to support drivers whilst they’re on the road and completing the driving task. But apps and technologies can be used to keep in touch with people while they are driving,” Sharp commented. “You don’t want to distract the drivers but there are things out there that can be used to have a one-way conversation with the driver, without them having to concentrate on having a discussion.”
Richard Lilwall, Managing Director at Teletrac Navman UK has also addressed this notion as part of their “Who is a Commercial Driver?” campaign, commenting that drivers are “people too, they are fathers, they’re mothers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, children – these are real live people and they’ve got their own pressures at home to deal with, and yet they’re continuing to work to make sure we have what we need to continue with our lives.”
But this begs the secondary question – how can businesses help to improve the mental health and wellbeing of their drivers, before it gets too much?
Sharp said that providing advice to drivers on how to keep healthy and how to maintain good wellbeing, is something that could be provided as part of an induction pack or annual or bi-annual training.
“Advice doesn't have to be about mental health. We know that other things regarding physical health can affect mental health and wellbeing. It’s really important to give a holistic picture and holistic advice to drivers about what steps they could be taking to manage their wellbeing.”
The important thing to remember here that just because commercial drivers may be lone workers, it doesn’t mean they’re alone. There is so much that a company can do to motivate, encourage and include their drivers, and there are also some small steps that drivers can make themselves.
Engagement is the key – and together as businesses and fleet operators, we can help protect our drivers.