Truck drivers alongside labourers have one of the highest suicide rates in the world according to most experts.
This is supported by statistics from the UK Government which suggest that people in these groups have a higher chance of dying in this way, a massive 44% above the national average writes Michael Younge.
The figures were taken over a four year period from 2011 until 2015 and are based on more than 13,000 suicides across Britain and a cursory look at the internet would suggest that most developed countries are facing similar problems with almost identical statistics in the US. This is bad news for the industry worldwide but it now seems that employers and trade associations have identified the risk – and are looking to the past for solutions.
Mindfulness and positive thinking, practised for thousands of years by Buddhist monks is no longer considered New Age or something reserved for the “hippy” community, but is being actively considered by the haulage industry as a way of supporting drivers. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence of companies calling in mindfulness experts, but little has yet to be documented probably because most employers still feel it is a weird science, but let’s look at the evidence which makes truckers so vulnerable.
By the very nature of the job, trucking is a lonely and stressful profession and this leads to isolation and negativity with plenty of time to dwell on the bad side of life. Long haul drivers in particular are away from friends and family for long periods and this can quickly lead to depression. Add on all the other stresses of overcrowded roads, long delays, road rage, pickups that fail to happen on time and then it is little wonder that truckers have a tough time.
There is also another shocking fact that there are also many suicidal people who use a large truck as the instrument of choice to kill themselves. Although no statistics are available, unlike those recorded for trains, it is nevertheless a phenomenon that no truck driver should ever have to face.
So what is Mindfulness? There have been many definitions but I prefer to call it – thinking in the NOW – by being aware at all times of our own feelings and surroundings, by allowing your thoughts to focus on the immediate situation. When practised properly, it allows the person to forget about the past and to avoid future outcomes.
This short article cannot look at the subject in detail but thinking in the NOW for truckers means not sitting in the cab dwelling on the past and things that can never be changed but concentrating on the moment and appreciating it and being at peace. The changing scenery and immediate situation can be used in a positive way that will affect the mood of the driver.
There are massive benefits for employers willing to introduce mindfulness and positive thinking. A happy driver will be a safer driver and if he or she is content with the NOW they will be concentrating more effectively on the job in hand.
A positive thinking policy also comes with a fair amount of common sense which urges drivers to avoid disruptive or negative people and to learn to be excited and motivated by what they do by creating incentives to develop positive feelings, peace and happiness and develop personal goals.
Every employer wants what is loosely described as professional drivers who are able to cope with the everyday stresses. Those that are not coping are usually dismissed as people with a negative attitude and as those drivers are away from depots for long periods, it is very easy to assume that all is well.
The statistics tell another story and as our roads become more crowded and as legislation and restrictions are increased then pressure on our truckers will get worst and demands on them will become more difficult – and no one wants that.