STANDING TOGETHER: 2016 Mount Gambier Beyond Blue Convoy.
STANDING TOGETHER: 2016 Mount Gambier Beyond Blue Convoy. Clinton Cox

Truck drivers more likely to struggle with mental health

TRUCK drivers have a 7%* higher chance of developing depression compared to other Australians, with 22% of drivers**  having experienced mental health issues, studies have revealed.   

Suicides also serve as a major issue with an analysis by the Victorian coroner's court in 2014, revealing truck drivers  had the highest rate of suicides out of any other profession, with 53 drivers taking their own lives between 2008 to 2014.   

In response the Transport Workers' Union have rallied against a Federal Government Bill which aims to make union-employer training funds illegal, and have announced a partnership with Beyond Blue aimed at training union organisers and delegates.   

"There are many reasons why transport workers are more vulnerable than other professions to mental health problems: long hours away from family and the stresses that puts on relationships; low pay and poor working conditions; and in the case of truck drivers, high injury and fatality rates," TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon said.   

"This initiative will seek to provide support to those living with mental health problems but also to make recommendations on what needs to be done to tackle them.   

"It is appalling to see the Federal Government moving to shut down mental health programs linked with training funds as part of its ideological opposition to a co-operative approach between companies and employees," he said. 

 Trans-Help Foundation CEO Dianne Carroll O.A.M who echos issues of mental health in the industry said in her experience drivers often seek help outside of their workplace, afraid of a reaction from their employers.

"We remain as an independent organisation to ensure the guys have somewhere to turn, we find the drivers are uncomfortable about dealing with any concerns at work," she said.   

"We have been told by some drivers that they are fearful of calling internal programs for fear of it being listed on the books," she said.    Dianne who runs a number of different programs through Trans-Help to support the health and welfare of transport personnel said drivers, often fail to seek help all together.   

"Road trauma goes undiagnosed and undealt with," Dianne said.  

"These people are often the first on the scene at road accidents or become victims of suicides by pedestrians, yet it isn't until the driver is involved in a horrific accident they may get help.   

For owner drivers the situation becomes even more difficult with no in-house resources available and limited time to address the issue.   

"Owner drivers often can't afford the time off to find help," Dianne said.   

"We try and plug the gaps with mobile health units, a 24 hour 1300 service and the ability to triage professional assistance."

"We have a network of phycologists and a telehealth service which can offer consultations for drivers in the cab, we have also teamed up with some companies to  develop inhouse programs to address mental health," she said. 

Mental health is one of a number of issues in the transport industry to be discussed by the Transport Workers Union at the union's National Council in Freemantle this week.   

The Council will also see a road safety campaigners group launched, involving family members of people who have died in truck crashes, and sessions on the future of work and how the transport industry should respond to automation and driverless vehicles.   

For anyone experiencing mental health issues please call 1300 DRIVER or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636

* Health Survey of the New South Wales Transport Industry, Australian Rotary Health report, 2008:

** Transport Workers' Union Safe Rates survey 2017

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