HOW CAN TRUCK FRIENDLY HELP?
By joining the Truck Friendly caravan road safety program not only do you, as a caravanner or RV driver, find out more about safe towing practices, and how to safely interact with trucks and other vehicles while towing or driving on the highways you also may be helping do a bit to reduce mental illness and suicide.
LET ME EXPLAIN.
DID YOU KNOW TRUCK DRIVERS HAVE A VERY HIGH SUICIDE AND MENTAL HEALTH RATE?
- Suicide is the second highest cause of death in truck drivers under 39 years of age.
- Mr Michael Kaine is National Secretary of the TWU and he also oversees insurance claims made by some 100,000 transport workers to their superannuation fund.
"There are between three and six suicide claims every month — a horrific number," he said.
- A Monash University study found the percentage of drivers aged under 35 suffering severe distress was almost double that of the average Australian male of the same age.
- Truck drivers are 13 times more likely to die at work than any other Australian worker.
- The number of drivers dying on Australian roads has also spiked after a report by the National Transport Insurance company found driver fatalities had more than doubled last year.
- An exodus of truck drivers, fed up with long hours and stagnating wages, has resulted in a nation-wide shortage.
- Truck driving is the most common occupation for male Australians, employing 1 in every 33 male workers, or approximately 200,000 drivers.
- "Most drivers are on their second or third relationship because previous spouses have said, 'I may as well be a single parent. They're doing their job and trying to provide for their families and they're doing that often in the middle of the night, for 14 to 16 hours a day, at huge costs to themselves, their sleep, their relationships and their health”, said, Dr. Elizabeth Pritchard, Research Fellow at Monash University in her study into mental health of Truck Drivers in Australia.
- Dr Pritchard said, “marriage breakdown, dislocation from family life and fears of infidelity were common among drivers and their partners.”
Thanks to the ABC and Dr Pritchard for the above information. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-22/qld-mental-health-crisis-suicide-research-truck-drivers/12866904
SO, WHAT CAN WE DO?
There are several programs trying to help truck drivers including ‘Wave to a Truckie’ etc.
The Truck Friendly caravan road safety program not only helps educate on safe caravan towing practices, but it also helps educate on how to build a cooperative and friendly working relationship with other road users including the truck drivers.
While I am one of the first to point out, no driver, no matter what they drive, is perfect, I have found most people want to help others and do the right thing. We often only hear about the bad ones.
The ‘I’M TRUCK FRIENDLY’ sticker program is where ‘qualifying drivers’ of RV’s or towing a caravan can obtain a free 30cm round green I’M Truck Friendly’ sticker for the rear of their van or RV. Only drivers who have a UHF radio installed, have read and understand the Truck Friendly driving guides from the web site and want to help other drivers qualify for a free sticker.
When a truck, or other driver comes up behind another vehicle, RV or caravan on the highways, ‘life is like a box of chocolates’,you never know what sort of driver you’re going to get. They may be courteous and know how to assist the truck driver. They may think they know what to do, but do the wrong thing, or they may be just plan ignorant, selfish, and not give a dam about road safety and other road users.
These stickers identify the ones who want to help and know how to help. They stand out from the crowd.
Truck drivers can then call them up on the UHF and work together to safety overtake, making for a less stressful and dangerous manoeuvre. Drivers are encouraged to build a cooperative and friendly relationship via the UHF chat and by their actions with other drivers.
While there are many aspects and causes of mental health issues with truck drivers, my belief is that a major cause may be that the drivers live a largely solitary life on the road, with more time to think and over-think problems and concerns than is healthy? Without regular distractions or positive reinforcement, the negative thoughts grow to unhealthy levels.
Helping stop the negative thought cycle early, before drivers reach the stage of needing help, I assume, must be a positive step in the right direction.
This negativity can be reinforced by the bad or inconsiderate behaviour of other drivers, holding up traffic, accelerating at overtaking lanes and such like. This can and has, lead to anxiety, aggressive and dangerous driving practices, especially when held up by slower drivers, not enabling the truck driver to gain maximum driving distance from their restricted driving regulated hours.
The simple act of seeing a supportive sticker (I’m Truck Friendly), and a friendly person on the other end of a UHF conversation offering to help the truck driver, I believe, must help to break the cycle of negative thoughts.
I know most of the truckies I have helped while towing my caravan, reply with a cheerful, “thanks mate”, “stay safe” or “wish there were more like you”. This will assist in giving the truck driver and you, something ‘nice’ and ‘positive’ to think about for the next few km’s breaking the negative thought cycle.
Not only does the on-road cooperation help with breaking the negative cycle, but it also assists the truck driver make it easier to make deadlines and help arrive home to family and friends safely and on time. Being held up on the roads as a truck driver can mean spending a compulsory regulation rest break at a truck stop / rest area instead of watching the children’s school concert or family time at home. All factors in mental health causes.
While there is much to be done to help our fellow road users, and I do not profess to have the magic bullet, there is always something small, that when combined with other small ‘nice’ things may help stop the problem before it grows to dangerous levels.
A smile and a friendly wave can work miracles. Every bit helps.
More on the Truck Friendly sticker program can be found on the web site. www.truckfriendly.com.au