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Protect your drivers from crash trauma

Use Mental Health Awareness month to evaluate your drivers' mental health after crashes

Posted May 10, 2024

Motor carriers know first-hand the price tag associated with a vehicle crash. But does the company consider the emotional cost of a major accident on the mental health of the driver? May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, so this is a great time to support your drivers and open the conversation to create an emotionally healthy workplace.

A driver may experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because of a serious crash. PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop after a traumatic event, like a vehicle accident. You may find one of two responses if someone is struggling with PTSD. The driver may:

  • Become overly nervous or anxious, posing a safety risk on the road; and/or
  • Call it quits and leave the industry entirely.

You can’t afford to lose a good driver over a bad situation. Make an effort to protect and support your drivers’ mental health by taking proactive steps.

Triggering the event

PTSD impacts a person when a traumatic event is triggered by some type of stimuli and relived through memory flashbacks. For instance, just the act of climbing into a commercial truck might recall the event for a driver who went through a serious crash.

Stimuli that trigger the memory and painful emotions might include:

  • The smell, sight, or sound of the truck;
  • Traffic conditions;
  • The time of day;
  • A particular stretch of road;
  • The time of year;
  • The temperature in the cab; or
  • A song on the radio.

Watch for warning signs

Watch a driver who has been involved in a crash for warning signs. This might include if the driver:

  • Has trouble getting back into a routine;
  • Has trouble getting back into a routine;
  • Is unable to concentrate;
  • Suddenly experiences heightened emotions (irritability/anger, guilt/shame); and/or
  • Is easily startled/frightened.

Never attempt to diagnose a driver’s physical or emotional health. Simply approach the driver in a caring, sympathetic manner.

Pose questions that don’t imply a diagnosis of PTSD. Instead, express concern about the driver’s change in behavior and what you can do to help.

Using an EAP for PTSD services

Someone who is suffering from PTSD should seek professional counseling as soon as it is evident that the accident trauma is interfering with day-to-day life.

If your organization offers an employee assistance program (EAP), ensure your staff that counselors can help. When contracting with an EAP, ask:

  • Are PTSD support groups available?
  • Is there someone the driver may contact outside of normal business hours when/if an anxiety attack takes place?
  • Are services available for the family of the driver?

By supporting good drivers through difficult times, you can reduce the chance of them leaving and create a mental-health positive workplace for everyone.

This article was written by Kathy Close of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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