The last two years have been tough on the supply chain and logistics industry. Unsurprisingly, recent events have also taken their toll on truck drivers’ mental health.
Labor shortages, in part from the ongoing Great Resignation, have left ports with too few employees to efficiently manage workloads. And a lack of drivers around the world has made it difficult to move the overflow of containers at those ports.
Even before these shortages, trucker mental health was a huge concern. And now, with depression in truckers on the rise, it’s even more important that these concerns be taken seriously.
Here are some things to consider about how you can effectively manage your teams to best navigate the current climate.
The decline in truckers’ mental health
Problems facing the trucking industry
A 2018 study found that truck drivers suffer from physical and mental health problems more frequently than the general population. Drivers suffer from loneliness, depression, chronic sleep disturbances, anxiety, and other emotional problems.
The current capacity shortages have only increased the pressure on drivers. While initial lockdowns and restrictions brought people home with their families, truckers were busy keeping the world operating. At the same time, drivers were facing an even more extreme isolation from others. And the stress on the supply chain has forced many of them to adapt their schedules while dealing with tighter deadlines.
A report from Lippincott said long-haul truck drivers “worked more hours during the pandemic with approximately 33% reporting more pressure to work.” Truck drivers, according to the report, faced issues like a lack of parking spaces and rest stops. These factors contributed to sleep deprivation and general malaise.
Drivers also spend a lot of time on the road. These long periods away from friends and family can be mentally and physically taxing. Add to that insufficient nutrition from frequent fast food stops and lack of fruits and vegetables, and it’s no wonder that a trucker’s physical health is also at risk. Truckers are prone to sleep apnea, high blood pressure, heart disease, and more — all of which only add to their stress.
Low pay, poor infrastructure and general lack of respect have also been cited as reasons for trucker mental health issues. In turn, many drivers are leaving the industry. This is creating an even bigger driver shortage and increasing pressures on those who remain.
Supporting your truck drivers’ mental health
Checking in with employees
With workforces so spread out, it‚’s hard to get a read on how your employees are feeling about their jobs. How can you know what employee morale is like if you rarely see and interact with employees?
Still, it’s important for managers to engage with their teams to get a handle on how they’re doing. One way to do this is by creating an anonymous survey system that allows employees to express how they’re feeling. They must be able to give feedback about their jobs without fear of retaliation.
You’ll want to ask whether the company is doing a good job engaging and supporting them. If not, ask what the company can do to make them feel valued.
Companies need to know what they’re getting right and what they’re getting wrong. Finding honest ways for your employees to express their concerns is one way to help crack the code.
It’s also critical to individualize this experience. Supply chain companies have employees spread across different sectors of the business – and sometimes different sectors of the world. Their experiences and needs will vary, and it’s important that you hear and acknowledge all of them.
Validation is key
Between the pandemic, ongoing political strife, and social unrest, the last few years have been hard for everyone. Employees need to know that it’s OK to not be OK.
Drivers and port workers are feeling the worst symptoms of work-related stress in the supply chain right now. They are the most critical workers to keeping the supply chains up and running. Supporting their mental health is an often overlooked but increasingly critical practice that should be a top priority for the industry.
Employers must keep truck driver health top of mind. This means ensuring that employees have access to help and a safe space to express their emotions. It also means being aware of the issues truck drivers face and supplying adequate resources, like paid mental health days.
Truckers play a key role in the supply chain, and they deserve our respect and support. Click here to see a unique, heroic way in which truckers are making supply chains safer.