Former truck driver says: ‘You’ve got to talk – don’t hold it in’

After being one of the first people on the scene of a horrific fatal crash, this Victorian truckie didn’t think he could ever return to trucking – but thanks to the support of those around him, he’s in a much better place.

Long-haul truck driver Andrew Mifsud, who works for Sargeant Transport, developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)  after the December 2022 incident.

With the support of those around him, he’s now returned to trucking, but in a different capacity, working as a driver trainer at Sargeant Transport.

Speaking of the 2022 incident, Mifsud recalled, “What I remember, I’m coming from Kyabram into Tatura. I’m seeing this white car and there was an oncoming truck that hit the car – that car didn’t give way.”

Both he and the other truck driver stopped to give her assistance. They tried desperately to help the young woman. Sadly she couldn’t be saved.

“He was on the phone with 000 while I was trying to get in the car. I still see the tear in her eye so she didn’t die straight away. I feel she didn’t die alone either because there was me and this other man. It was very hard,” Mifsud explained.

After that, Mifsud drove back and thought he was okay – that was until the next day, when it really hit him.

“To be honest I was alright,” he said. “The next day was a different story. I got in the truck, I was on the way to Bendigo, halfway there, it just wasn’t the same, I started tearing up,” he said.

“I couldn’t deal with work, it was hard enough at home, losing my dad three weeks prior. I was mourning this girl before my dad.”

As driver training manager at Sargeant Transport, Paul Bracker, explained, “I definitely remember the day the incident happened. Andy called us the next day and said, ‘Hey, I’m not right’. We went through with our injury process to ensure that we can get him the help that he needs.”

Mifsud was appointed a case manager named Kathy Anderson from personal injury insurer Employers Mutual Limited (EML).

“Andrew’s injury was really tough to read. He tried so desperately to save her and he just didn’t want to talk about it – and it was really, really tough for him to open up. We needed to find him psychology and fairly quickly,” she said.

“The first couple of months were really tough on Andrew. I made myself available to him whenever he needed to and that was really important for our relationship.

“Andrew was just willing to do whatever he needed to do to keep on putting one foot in front of the other.

“He eventually returned to work and it was such a massive moment for him.”

Mifsud says he credits Anderson with changing his life. “If you don’t talk… You can’t hold it in, it just explodes. You get it off your chest and you feel lighter – because I was gone. I was going to give notice, I was out,” he said.

“The support I got from my team, it’s changed my mind.”

When an opportunity arose for Mifsud to join the Sargeant Transport driver training team, Mifsud retrained as a driver trainer.

“I’m still learning. It’s hard coming out of the truck and trying to teach someone else. You’re reaching for the foot pedal trying to stop the truck,” he laughed.

“I get pleasure out of it too because I know I can help him or her. I was going to semi-retire or retire, I didn’t want nothing to do with roads. That’s all gone out the window now.”

Anderson added, “He’s got a different perspective on life now. It’s all about family, and all about doing the things that make him happy. He had to work really, really, really hard to get to where he is and I’m so proud of him for everything he’s achieved.”

Mifsud’s advice to other injured workers is to talk, seek help and never give up.

“Anybody who’s going through what I’m going through, you’ve got to talk. Don’t hold it in. And hopefully you find someone like Kathy that can make you talk,” he said.

Mifsud’s inspiring story was also recognised as part of the WorkSafe Awards, which recognise excellence in workplace health and safety and return to work.

From 100 nominations received, Mifsud was among 16 finalists shortlisted across six award categories.

He went on to be named a joint winner in the Return to Work Achievement award, alongside Helene Visser from Tidda Counselling, who also overcame a significant mental injury to get back to work.

Award winners were announced at a special event at Sofitel Melbourne on February 29.

WorkSafe chief executive officer Joe Calafiore said, “It is wonderful to share the stories of individuals who have made the journey back to work after injury, as well as those who have gone to great lengths to make their workplaces safer.

“Their achievements are an inspiration not only among their peers, but to anyone who values safe and healthy workplaces.”

As for Mifsud, he believes that for people in similar situations to him, returning to work is the best thing you can do.

“If a company can give support to a worker, I think it’s a big step. I feel this award shouldn’t be only for me, it should be for the people around me.”

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