Black Dog In The Cab – The Unwanted Passenger

In a slight redux of a blog post from April of this year we’re going to examine, in greater detail, a particularly concerning health trend in transport professionals – that of mental health, and the causality of problems therein. We have been inspired to further explore this on the back of a recent call, by the Road Transport Industry Training Board, for operators to prioritize the mental health of employees. It’s not an unreasonable suggestion, and as a company which takes a wholistic approach to the conditions of the most important assets we have, devoting some energy to this problem and limiting its potential occurrence is nothing if not sound practice.

It is important, however, for us at Barnes Logistics to consider this from an industry-wide perspective, and not to complacently suppose we are the only company whose drivers are vulnerable to the issue. No… in order to work towards a solution, we must first identify the problems which are, unfortunately, inherent within road transport, and consider what we are doing and what we can do better. Only then will sustainable action be possible.

What can really mislead the casual observer, with little operative knowledge of logistics, is that it looks like a stroll in the park, being paid to drive a well-appointed truck and have a constantly changing vista from one’s office as you traverse the nation. These very true aspects can equally throw many relatively inexperienced, recently qualified, professionals impressed by the huge responsibilities entrusted to their care by a company actively supportive of the recruitment of the future generations of road transport operatives.

However, with experience comes the knowledge that very real stresses are ubiquitous in even the most average of days, and such stresses have, over time, become the accepted ‘new normal’. Be it the pressure of doing battle with the obstacle which is a road network which is increasingly congested in aiming to meet very strict delivery time-slots, finding one’s self away from home for more nights than is ideal for a desired work-life balance, or realizing that an accumulation of familiar factors, otherwise beyond one’s control, will leave one with a perceived, and false, sense of shortfall against routinely professional personal standards of work.

To name all but a few, manfully, in what remains a disproportionately male-dominated arena, conceding that this is just the way it is for all is to avoid the issue, leaving one susceptible to more profound problems which can, if allowed to fester, compound both cause and consequence, challenging one’s motivation, purpose, and rational sense of accomplishment under difficult circumstances; and however one may attempt to re-package this for personal ease, the most rudimentary diagnosis is that it is a mental health problem.

There are likely more scientific or clinically sophisticated terms for any such denial, but it is broadly understood as ‘bottling-up’, and there need be no place or need for such in a world and workplace which is constantly in quest of greater efficiencies through tactility and a better understanding of human resource needs. It only does good to talk, and there will always be an ear.

We would like to think, at Barnes Logistics, that our business model challenges old-fashioned convention in road transport, that our ‘open door’ policy and efforts towards encouraging a social camaraderie after we have all clocked-off in some way help to mitigate stresses which characterize a typical shift, and that the conditions we offer our professionals make the battle one easier won.

However, it is a salient point that the needs of BLL, and fellow logistics providers, is very much the whim of our customers in broader industry, and until we have all made a concerted effort towards a quantum jump in operations, which as good as puts the potential metaphorical ‘black dog’ to sleep, we must all keep our sights on the incremental improvements in conditions which have a barely noticeable impact on customer needs, and a huge positive impact in maintaining a positive and motivated attitude in a workplace which will always have stresses in some shape or form.

It has taken many years of effort in pursuit of the goal which has seen visible illnesses such as obesity and coronary heart disease, associated with road transport, progressively become the exception to the rule. It’s time we all, afflicted or otherwise, fully opened our eyes and saw the hidden which is everywhere, for the equally damaging malady that it is. Conventional wisdom encourages one to express ailments such as an upset stomach, and understand the cause with no stigma attached – mental health should have no inalienable privilege to the contrary.