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Five practical ways to support your drivers’ mental and physical health in 2023

Today’s driving environment may feel more pressured than ever before.

Transportation management teams deal with stressful situations, such as rising fuel prices and problems caused by inflation, along with ever-changing legislation and emerging clean air zones.

Meanwhile, bus and coach drivers are coping with long driving hours, congestion, complicated routes, variable shift patterns and 24-hour operations. All of which can aggravate the risk of fatigue-related health issues.

It is estimated one-in-four bus or coach drivers suffer from mental illness each year. These illnesses could include bouts of depression, sleeplessness, anxiety, loneliness, or feeling burnt out. Worryingly, most drivers do not admit concerns to their management team or their colleagues, or ask for help or support to manage their condition.

At CJC Transport Consultants, we believe transport management teams have a duty of care to protect their drivers’ health and wellbeing. Failure to act could increase the risk of fatigue-related accidents or cause drivers to choose to walk away from their jobs.

To help you support your drivers this year, here are a few actionable tips to take on board.

Focus on training and development

Regular training is essential to ensure your drivers are always working to best practice standards. Not only does it provide essential updates on working habits and practices, but a regular training schedule shows that, as an employer, you are committed to your drivers’ development and creating opportunities for career advancement. This will help maintain the enthusiasm and ability of your team, as well as helping with staff retention.

Our range of training courses are designed to help you upskill your team. We have a variety of courses available, from first aid to road risk assessments, driver assessment training and CPC training.

Implement regular health and wellbeing checks

In our opinion, not enough businesses implement regular health and wellbeing checks. A health check doesn’t necessarily mean asking for confidential medical information, but it is an opportunity for you to bring in experienced health and wellbeing personnel who can create healthy workplaces.

Bus and coach drivers are notorious for poor diet choices, often as a result of limited access to healthy food while driving. Combined with a sedentary job role that prevents regular movement or exercise, it is easy to see how bad habits can occur.

But there are ways to prevent those bad habits.

For example:

  • Bring in dietician consultants to advise on healthy lunch choices while on the road.

  • Provide water bottles to ensure drivers remain hydrated while driving.

  • Facilitate physio sessions or direct drivers to a selection of stretches or exercises to relieve any discomfort while driving.

With a regular health and wellbeing check, you can support your drivers as they create a healthier lifestyle.

Be aware of the signs of seasonal affective disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder (also known as SAD) can be a huge driver of mental ill-health during the winter periods. HGV drivers working long shift patterns may be at a higher risk of feeling stressed, lethargic or anxious during the November-February timeframe than any other time of the year.

Research from the RED Driver Risk Management’s Wellbeing Profiler (as reported in Export & Freight) has shown a fifth of all drivers feel tired during these months, while “enthusiasm for the job wanes by nearly 10%”. This is clear cause for concern; not only could issues caused by SAD impact the number of sick days (creating logistical headaches), but it could also create a higher risk of road accidents.

There are ways to move past this:

  • Reducing the number of long driving hours.

  • Ensuring drivers have two consecutive days off a week.

  • Moving driving sessions to daylight times where possible.

Encourage drivers to monitor their sleep patterns

If lack of sleep and lethargy are a continuous problem for your drivers, then it may be beneficial to encourage your drivers to use a variety of sleep aids.

There are various apps available, such as Balance, Headspace or Calm, designed to help you switch off and unwind when in bed. These apps, and tracking devices (such as Apple Watch and Fitbit) can give insights into your sleep patterns and make suggestions on how to improve your sleep.

As an employer, you need to spot the signs of those drivers who may be overly tired.

Making sure your drivers are taking regular breaks and having time away from work is essential to maintaining their overall health and wellbeing.

Open and honest communication is the key

We believe facilitating an honest and open workplace is the best way to support your staff this year. As transport management consultants, we’ve seen first-hand how businesses can thrive when all employees feel empowered to speak up about issues worrying them.

The transport and logistics sectors are notoriously stressful, which is why employers need to actively work to reduce the stress levels of all employees throughout the yard. Paying close attention to your employees’ behaviour, and identifying the root causes of stress, could not only increase your staff retention, but may reduce the likelihood of a road traffic accident.

At CJC Transport Consultants, we can work with you and your team to create new policies and procedures that put your staff health and wellbeing at the forefront of your decision making. From our extensive training programmes through to our consultancy services, we work with clients to help them work to their very best.

To find out more about what we can offer, please contact us directly on 01493 803 740.

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