OzHelp: “Truck drivers at breaking point”

OzHelp says many of Australia’s truckies are at breaking point as the industry ramps up for Christmas.

The national suicide prevention organisation is calling for compassion and understanding towards truck drivers as they work under unbearable pressures and restrictions.

OzHelp CEO Darren Black says the last 18 months have placed extreme pressure on drivers in an industry that has been described as one of the unhealthiest and deadliest in Australia.

“The transport industry remains one of the highest at-risk of mental ill-health, and truck drivers are the second-highest occupational group at risk of suicide, after construction workers,” he said.

“The sentiment from drivers is one of frustration and fatigue as they continue to balance and juggle time pressures, isolation, and long hours on top of changing restrictions, a lack of support, and increased workloads.”

Rod Hannifey, President of the National Road Freighters Association has experienced these pressures himself. “It’s a difficult time for many drivers and the industry is running at near capacity. Some people have left the industry, many have lost work and there has been movement of drivers creating significant disruption,” he said.

“As an industry we have all too often been left chasing our tail, trying to comply with not only different interpretations of the rules, but complete rule changes, often weekly, but at times by the hour,” Hannifey added.

“Expectations for drivers to be across these changes add additional stress and with the unpredictable wait times for border testing and results, schedules are impacted and affect the ability to plan ahead to get a decent meal, take a shower or even sleep.

“Living and working out of a truck is hard enough without this inconsistency and complexity and we are calling for a national focus and approach to the decisions being made.”

OzHelp says the pressure on drivers is immense. Its support program Health in Gear is there to reassure drivers and their families that they are not alone. Health in Gear has been developed with drivers and offers a range of self-help resources on their website, a podcast titled ‘Share the Load’, and a 1800 line that provides support and counselling to drivers and their families.

Health in Gear support worker Frank Arsego said, “The industry is unique and often misunderstood and many people struggle to understand the complex challenges truck drivers face. The industry is quite literally the backbone of Australia’s economy.

“We’ve heard worrying stories of drivers not being able to take a day off due to a shortage of drivers. Basic needs have not been met with shower facilities and toilets being closed. One driver said with the mounting pressure he cried for a whole day, claiming he’s not such a big tough truck driver after all. Drivers need to know there’s someone at the end of the line who gets it, is listening, and wants to help.”

With Christmas not too far away, Health in Gear asks the community to be mindful of the challenges and pressures truck drivers are facing and respond with patience, kindness and support.

Health in Gear is a health and wellbeing program developed by the OzHelp Foundation. The program is funded by the Commonwealth Government through the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative.

Truck drivers can access support by calling 1800 IN GEAR (1800 464 327) Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm AEST. For 24/7 crisis support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

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