The Healthy Heads in Trucks & Sheds Foundation has recently won a federal government grant to promote the prevention and control of mental health disorders in truck drivers. This is an Australian Trucking Association initiative taken from ideas and concepts developed at last year’s national conference and by ATA’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Committee. Major commercial partners include Linfox Australia, Qube Holdings, Ron Finemore Transport, Toll Holdings and the Woolworths Group.

This grant will improve the mental health of heavy vehicle drivers, warehouse and distribution centre staff nationally. It is known that industry statistics are currently indicating that one in five truck drivers have suffered a mental health episode, and more than 13 per cent are diagnosed with depression. This is due to a combination of factors that include risks such as long working hours, shift work, isolation, sleep deprivation and general feelings of fatigue.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said innovative projects like this that are delivering safety benefits to the heavy vehicle industry and other road users have recently been funded. Under the Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative program, he has funded Healthy Heads in Trucks & Sheds Foundation. The Minister said, “this is all part of the Australian Government’s continuing commitment to improve road safety to move towards zero fatalities and serious injuries on our roads.”

Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight Transport Scott Buchholz also said that finding innovative ways like the Healthy Heads in Trucks & Sheds Foundation is vital “to make safety front of mind for road users is key to supporting the Safe System principles – a holistic approach to road safety that underpins the National Road Safety Strategy agreed by all governments.”

HHTS will partner with industry, government and research and not for profit organisation to support mental health and wellbeing in the transport industry. The foundation will address questions about suicide, build positive driver image and improve their self-esteem. It will not just be drivers as they are also tasked with developing skills and capacity in all aspects of the supply change including at warehouses and distribution centres.

Most truck drivers operate as small businesses, so they need this support to encourage them to have conversations about mental health in cafes, truck stops and rest areas. Individuals need to also consider healthy living choices. They can do this through online education tools and resources, to reduce stress levels and lower driver anxiety, to seek out better nutrition alternatives, diets and increased exercise or general fitness options for improved mental health.

It is important to build positive driver image and improve the self-esteem of thousands of professional drivers across the nation. Afterall our dedicated truck drivers have been working around the clock to keep our nation moving and shelves stocked during COVID-19.