There’s been a large crash! The unthinkable has happened and someone lost their life in this collision. Thank goodness your driver is OK. But a third-party has died. The police have finished their investigation. The insurance company has been notified and they’ve sent an adjuster. The adjuster has finished up at the scene of the collision. Your driver is back home and is now safe and with his/her family. But everyone is heartbroken. Now what?
What happens to your driver? When is your driver physically able to return to work? How soon is your driver mentally fit to drive? These are questions that need to be answered and are, at best, difficult to answer. When a driver is physically able to return to work is certainly easier to answer than when he/she is mentally ready to return. Your driver may go to physical rehab and get back into shape. The doctor will sign a return to work order saying he/she is physically capable of returning to work. Is that all your company does?
I’m extremely concerned that many companies do exactly this. After a very serious loss, they’re able to get the driver physically ready to return to work and now he/she is out driving the truck again. It appears that most companies don’t require a mental assessment before the driver returns to work. I believe this is a huge gaping hole in the return to work process.
From a liability point of view I think each and every company owes it to both the driver and the motoring public to make sure the operators of their trucks are in top physical and emotional state. Does your company have a return to work policy that includes mental fitness? I certainly think it should!
What if the driver returns to work and is driving distracted? By distracted I mean, his mind is always thinking about the crash that he was involved in and he is not paying attention to the driving that he is doing now. If this results in another crash, I believe the lawyers will have many, many questions for the trucking company. They will certainly be looking at the return to work policy. Was the driver physically able to return to work? Was he ever examined by anyone to ascertain his mental readiness?
The point I’m trying to get across in this article is the exposure most companies have by allowing a driver to return to work without a proper assessment. I believe three assessments are necessary; first the physical assessment, next a driving assessment and finally a mental assessment. The mental assessment is just as important as the first two.
I’ve asked many trucking companies this question. After a serious loss does your driver receive counseling at the company’s expense? In most cases the answer is “no.”
Most companies don’t have a plan for mental fitness. We often read in the news about PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) in regard to soldiers coming home from Afghanistan. I’m sure, there’s a huge difference between what triggers PTSD for a soldier vs. a truck driver who may be exposed to one horrific event. But when it comes to mental fitness, how the driver handles this event is what matters. Not every soldier comes home with PTSD. Not every truck driver suffers after a fatal accident. But we’re aware that the risks are there.
I feel strongly that after a significant event every driver should be required to attend counseling so that the counselor may assess the potential development of this disorder and offer help if necessary to the driver.
It may be a good retention tool, as well. Especially when drivers realize that their company cares as much about their mental fitness, as their physical wellness. I realize this is a big step when most companies don’t even have health and wellness programs. But if you do have a health and wellness program, mental fitness should be an important aspect.
I encourage all trucking companies to give this some thought.