Commentary | Viewpoint

Helping Truck Drivers Address Job Stress

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Buck Black, Therapist, TruckerTherapy.com
765-589-1415

 

Change is a well-established cause of stress. In 1967, psychologists developed a stress scale that lists 43 stressful life events that can contribute to illness. Changes in financial state, job responsibilities, employment conditions, and working hours; trouble with an employer; and revision of personal habits place a person at a moderate risk of physical illness due to stress.

Many truck drivers experience these changes regularly. Although some people are more likely than others to succumb to stress, changes to trucking regulations, such as hours or service laws, will compound the existing stress truckers experience.

Many trucking companies are taking steps to reduce stress on their drivers. Implementing Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) is one common action. The goal of an EAP is to provide short-term counseling — often three to eight sessions — for employees who have personal problems that are likely to decrease their productivity, such as divorce, a death in the family, conflict with supervisors, relationship problems, and substance abuse.

EAP services to organizations include:

  • Education on handling mental health, stress, and addictions in the workplace
  • Addressing workplace violence
  • Safety and emergency preparedness
  • Guidance on communicating in difficult situations, such as mergers, layoffs, or when employees die on the job
  • Absence management
  • Meeting needs of specific workers, such as returning veterans

In order for an employer to participate in an EAP, they usually contract with an EAP company, which then manages therapists who provide counseling. Since the employer pays for counseling, the employee is more likely to follow through with their appointments. It is also important to note that the sessions are confidential. It is the confidentiality that allows the driver to work through the problem without worry of negative impact from the employer.

EAPs have been shown to contribute to:

  • Decreased absenteeism
  • Reduced accidents and fewer workers' compensation claims
  • Greater employee retention
  • Fewer labor disputes
  • Significantly reduced medical costs arising from early identification and treatment of individual mental health and substance use issues.

Boosting Driver Retention

Providing an avenue to address truck drivers' problems helps increase productivity and improve driver retention. This decrease in driver turnover can save employers significant money by avoiding hiring and re-training expenses. Of course, helping drivers live better lives is the primary benefit.

The challenge for EAPs is the employee's mistrust of confidentiality. Frequently, employees are afraid to use EAPs because they believe the employer will have access to their records. Laws protect employees' confidentiality, however.

Some drivers are glad to use the service after a little reassuring, while others are not. If the employee is not willing to use EAP, it is important to encourage them to seek mental health services on their own.

Here are some other steps truck drivers can take to help cope with stress:

  • Take action. Don't be powerless — if you need help, seek it.
  • Participate in social networking groups to increase your support.
  • Focus on positive elements of your life, such as hobbies and family.
  • Make time to get a bit of exercise.
  • Eat as healthily as possible.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep.
  • Focus on the things you can change.

 

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