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PTSD Often Affects Long-Haul Truck Drivers but Whether Truckers Seek Help Remains Unclear

Most individuals believe that trucking is a dangerous and unpredictable occupation. This popular view of trucking isn’t particularly off base since the seeming monotony of the open road can transform into a living nightmare in fractions of a second. One moment the commercial motor vehicle operator may be cruising down the highway and the next moment he or she may be acting as a first responder to a gruesome accident where severe injuries or fatalities may be present. Even when the driver may not have been involved in this particular accident, the wreck may still trigger memories of past truck accidents or incidents he or she was involved with.

A recent blog post on Maddog Trucker’s Facebook blog seeks to explore and answer some of the mental health issues raised in a recent piece in The Atlantic originally inspired by an earlier Maddog post. The Maddog piece seeks to explore one piece of the mental health concerns raised in the article in the Atlantic.

PTSD on the Open Road

Following a brief quote from the Maddog blog regarding the potential effects of witnessing or being involved in a serious trucking accident, the article in The Atlantic opens with a striking statistic — based on data from Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), one in three truckers will be involved in a serious crash or accident at some point during their career. This equates to more than one million Americans experiencing a traumatic and potentially deadly event during their career. This is reflected in Bureau of Labor Statistics reports of one of the “highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations” for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers.

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However, while it appears that Maddog and the authors of the Atlantic article agree on the prevalence of difficult circumstances and situations leading to mental health issues, they seem to disagree on the level of mental health care.

How Hard Is It For Truckers to Obtain Mental Health Care?

One of the core assertions of the article in The Atlantic is that the demands of the long-haul trucking can make seeking medical care nearly impossible. The authors write:

For one thing, long-haul truckers are almost never at home—in some cases, they spend only a handful of days each year not on the road. They also tend to have very little control over their schedules. One trucker friend recently complained that, though she informed her dispatcher far in advance of the need to be at home for a crucial medical appointment, when that time came, she was still stuck out on the road and had to cancel the appointment. If acute care isn’t valued and made possible, mental-health care and preventive health care won’t be, either.

However, it appears that Maddog’s curiosity was piqued by this assertion and the author set out to investigate how difficult it actually was for truckers to obtain mental health services. In a recent post, Maddog writes that he reached out the Ask A Veteran Driver Facebook group along with thirteen “major” trucking companies. Maddog writes that the Ask a Veteran Driver group replied almost immediately. For the thirteen trucking companies asked:

“How does (your company) help it’s drivers that have difficulty mentally handling the aftermath of witnessing a bad accident?”

Maddog writes that 10 out of thirteen companies responded. He states that TMC was the first company to respond and stated, “Each case is different, but handled very seriously. May I ask if you are a driver of ours?” Other companies that responded promptly, in the order reported by Maddog include:

  • Prime Inc. — “Prime not only provides support internally here through our staff that is available 24/7, but we also have resources available to our associates to help with situations like this.”
  • Maverick – Granted access to a website set-up to help drivers coping with mental health issues.
  • Nussbaum — “We don’t have formal programs. We do have a loving group of people who I believe support an individual having a tough time. Also, we are flexible with giving someone time off if they need it.”

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Thus, Maddog has certainly established that many trucking companies do take mental health response times seriously. The responses also suggest that a number of companies have set-up formalized programs to help truckers deal with PTSD and other conditions.

Treatment Isn’t Always Readily Sought

However, one aspect that the blog does not address is whether truckers are likely to seek mental health care even when it is available. The Atlantic article cites that fact that 94 percent of truck drivers are men and that men are less likely to seek mental health treatment services. Furthermore, the story of the trucking industry in recent years has seen more and more hard-working drivers sink from the middle class to low-income status.  The Atlantic article also cites a JAMA study finding that lower-income and working-class Americans are less likely to seek treatment.

While Maddog doesn’t address these particular assertions directly, the blog should be commended for not only broaching the subject but expressing compassion and understanding throughout. Furthermore, encouraging individuals to seek assistance and explaining the options available should also be recognized. After all, motorists share the road and, therefore, the mental health of all drivers — whether a commuter or a commercial truck driver – should be taken seriously and ample resources to address concerns and problems should be provided.


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