Depressed truck drivers an accident risk: report

New report shows depression increases risk of accidents, and drivers are working excessive hours

By Brad Gardner

A new report has found depression is increasing the likelihood of accidents in the trucking industry, but drivers are resisting help.

The Health Survey of the New South Wales Transport Industry argues certain factors play a key role in heavy vehicle road safety.

According to the findings, drivers with symptoms of depression are twice as likely to have an accident. The incident rate increases to six times for those with severe symptoms.

The report says about 13 percent of truck drivers have some form of depression while 91 percent show symptoms.

However, only a minority of drivers at risk agreed to psychological treatment, leading the report’s author to determine there are "substantial barriers" in heavy vehicle drivers seeking treatment.

"Our research found that 91 percent of drivers with symptoms of depression were not in treatment," Dr Michael Hilton, who works for Mental Health Queensland, says.

"Educating those in the transport sector about mental health issues and reducing the stigma attached to help-seeking is important."

Hilton says the findings must be extended into an action plan, and measures introduced to encourage drivers to address depression-related issues.

The report also argues there is a link between work hours and stress, saying stress is prevalent in the trucking industry because drivers work excessive hours.

"On average NSW truck drivers work 62 hours per week, which is much greater than the Australian full-time employee average of 43 hours per week," the report says.

"Alarmingly, 65 percent state they work more thon 60 hours per week and 6.5 percent work more thon 100 hours."

The report also shows alcohol abuse, while not rampant, is common in the industry with 27 percent of drivers surveyed showing signs of dangerous alcohol abuse.

Hilton also says drug use among drivers is double that of population norms. According to the findings, drivers aged 25 to 34 and 65 and over are most likely to be consuming drugs.

Hilton says long work hours and owner-operators driving line haul are the key risk factors in drug use.

The report was commissioned by Australian Rotary Health and surveys conducted by Queensland University.

The National Transport Commission (NTC) and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) also supported the study.

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