Although it’s the second most common profession in the country, truck driving has also been rated as one of the riskiest. In addition to the thousands of accidents involving trucks each year, drivers are subject to a high level of occupational stress.
Deconstructing the Stressors of America’s Truckers
The United States National Library of Medicine has conducted research about the stresses of driving a tractor trailer. The organization has found a huge variety of factors that truckers across the nation are facing. These stressors can be divided into three categories: company-related, safety, and social.
Stress Factors Related to the Company
Some of the most widespread stressors affect every driver behind the wheel. For example, there are constant time pressures. Many truckers are paid by the mile, so they can make more money if they drive faster. This constant, looming feeling can take its toll on their attitude and mental health. Aside from meeting time expectations, drivers feel many other stress from their companies. For example, they have to remember specific protocols, behave appropriately, and maintain performance.
Safety Concerns for the Truck Driver
Drivers want to keep their jobs, of course, but staying safe is more important. The USNLM discovered that many truckers are highly concerned with the dangers of the road. They listed inclement weather, traffic, and road conditions as major fears.
Those who were studied also had concerns about violence. Many of them were afraid that they would be wounded or killed in an attempted robbery or the like. This is especially understandable considering that they often travel completely alone and rest in their trucks.
The Social Stigma
Movies and the media can sometimes paint truck drivers in an unfavorable light. Those who pursue the carrier are afraid that they will be disrespected by other people. This is true on and off the road, since people display road rage or a general aversion for truckers.
Perhaps the biggest social issue isn’t perception, but isolation. Almost all drivers are on their own for at least half the day. Spending hours and hours without human interaction can make communication more difficult—especially if the solitude is observed for a long period of time.
The Mental Health of the Nation’s Truckers
These factors have the potential to alter mental health—but do they? Studies say yes. Groups of truckers between the ages of 23 and 76 were examined, and 28% of them said that they were so lonely that it affected their wellbeing. Another 27% noted problems with depression. Chronic sleep disturbance, anxiety, and other mental issues made the list as well.
Some drivers suffer from more acute disorders than others, like PTSD. This happens most often when they witness an accident during a haul. They may see terribly graphic details, and the fact that they are on the road so often makes the fear much more real. Drivers have reported nightmares, panic attacks, and general exhaustion as a result.
Tips for Better Mental Health
Although it can be stressful, the career of a truck driver can be incredibly rewarding. Many individuals find that preventative techniques and a positive attitude go a long way. Experienced drivers frequently recommend:
- Traveling with a pet. Dogs serve as great companions for the road (so long as they get ample exercise). Many companies have policies that allow hauling with a furry friend.
- Bringing a friend or family member. This one depends on the individual company, but traveling with another person is always a good idea where it’s allowed.
- Keeping in contact. Speaking with family at home is a fantastic way to bolster motivation for the day. Having an update each evening can also help diminish the feeling of distance.
- Making the truck feel like home. Personal decorations, hygiene supplies, and quality bedding can help keep the driver more comfortable and happy.
- Taking time off. Even the most dedicated truckers need time away. Drivers should plan ahead and ensure that they can take an occasional break.
- Visiting nice truck stops. Clean atmospheres and friendly people can help improve a trucker’s mood. Settling for any station can leave an individual feeling grimy or even threatened.
The mental health of every truck driver on the road is important. After all, they’re piloting powerful machines and often carrying valuable items. It’s vital that every trucker fully understand the risk and be proactive with a regimen of self-care.