How can businesses ensure they are meeting the needs of their drivers?

Fleet managers have a duty of care to their drivers and their mental health. Only earlier this year, an industry study revealed that over half of fleet drivers in the UK have experienced a decline in their mental health. COVID-19 has only exacerbated what is now a developing problem within fleet management, as we see increasing numbers of drivers face job uncertainty and unrealistic expectations.

At the very least, businesses need to take better care of their drivers from a public relations perspective (the impact of Amazon’s recent driver scandal would surely spell the end for lesser-sized companies). But of course, that’s very much the bare minimum.

How can companies take better care of their fleet? Our guide here provides some fleet management tips that you can adopt to make mental health a priority.

Begin with driver engagement

Your first port of call when improving fleet mental health is driver engagement. Rosie Sharp of Behavioural Sciences Research at Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), stated in her seminar, ‘Mental health and wellbeing: looking after your drivers’, that the nature of driving work is a perfect storm of mental health issues.

Sharp refers here to anything from unpredictable journey times and long unsociable hours, to tight deadlines and a distinct lack of social interaction. Your starting point to help combat all this is ongoing driver engagement. It sounds like an obvious recommendation, “engage and interact with your drivers”, but unfortunately, it’s too often overlooked.

Provide your drivers with feedback at regular intervals or ask them how their journeys are going. This is natural interaction between colleagues, but again, it’s sadly not the case in some companies. What those two examples do is remind your drivers that they too are part of an organisation and, by extension, a group effort in terms of the business. It helps remind them that they’re not on their own when out on the road.

Think about putting a mental health professional on your payroll

By enlisting the help of a counsellor or mental health professional, all you’re doing is extending the reach of your HR department. It doesn’t have to be a huge change to how you work, despite how drastic a measure it might seem.

In 2020, the CALM Driver campaign helped lift the lid on some of the pressures of our drivers and it was conducted in collaboration with Driving for Better Business (DfBB) and the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). From here, there has been increasing focus on how some drivers conduct themselves and how their wellness could be better cared for by employers. The campaign recommends that companies seek professional mental health consultants at the earliest opportunity. Shortly before the campaign, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that the suicide rate for van drivers is 25% higher than the national average (for truck drivers, it is 20% higher).

Work with your drivers when planning schedules

Where possible, you should work with drivers when planning schedules and routes. Take into account your drivers’ lifestyle and other factors, like whether or not they have young children. Generally speaking, keep their preferences in mind where possible. This will make a world of difference because you’re helping to create a convenient schedule that works for the drivers as well as the business.

Ensure that your drivers get enough rest

Rest and recuperation is vital, especially for long-haul drivers. There are many ways you can help improve their quality of life through rest. The first is related to the above point: create schedules with reasonable space in between shifts. The second is through your recruitment process; hiring enough drivers will prevent you placing unnecessary strain on the select few.

Our final recommendation is that you provide resources and various tools to aid your drivers’ understanding of how rest affects mental health. What starts as fatigue can easily slide into worse mental health issues. Whether it’s webinars, helplines, or a visit from a wellbeing professional, distributing vital resources is really important.

Invite feedback from your drivers

We mentioned the importance of giving your drivers feedback, but it shouldn’t be a one-way street. Inviting feedback from your drivers not only helps improve your business and how you engage with employees, it also encourages open communication between drivers and your business. If your drivers know that support is available and that there is always someone to talk to (and that person doesn’t have to necessarily be from HR), this goes a long way in creating an inclusive workplace.

Do your best to create a healthy work-life balance for your drivers

For long-haul drivers, it often seems like their work-life balance is seriously unbalanced and this can create real negative effects on mental health. Perhaps you can introduce a flexible working arrangement, or allow your drivers to swap shifts if needed. Understandably, you have deadlines to meet and delivery schedules to run but there should be a degree of flexibility for your drivers, too. This is actually an area where our fleet strategy services could help.

Transparency, honesty and communication are vital

Fleet mental health is so important to get right. With the above measures, you can help your fleet improve their wellness and mental health – the potential of this for your business is huge. From increased productivity to overall happiness, there are so many possibilities for improvement.

We’d like to help. We provide all kinds of fleet management solutions to assist with the above, like our fleet analytics, for example. Simply give us a call on 0161 973 8579 or email hello@evpsolutions.co.uk and one of our advisers will be in touch.