Driving can be stressful on a good day, but the holidays are especially tough. Winter holidays often bring slippery road conditions and crowded streets, making them even more stressful. These unfavorable conditions combined with the holiday rush can lead to stressed and tired delivery drivers as they navigate their routes under tight timelines.
This holiday season is expected to surpass the one-trillion-dollar mark for the first time in US history, and this means more delivery vehicles on the road than ever before. As we barrel toward this retail bonanza, it’s important for fleet managers to be on the lookout for signs of driver stress. In this blog, we will talk about the risks associated with driver stress and how to recognize the signs that a driver is over-stressed. Lastly, we will touch on how to nurture a culture of health and wellness to prevent stress from taking hold.
The Stress of Driving
According to a study sponsored by the National Institute of Health (NIH), professional drivers are subject to stressful working condition with negative impacts:
“Task-related features of professional drivers (e.g., traffic congestion, time pressure, shift patterns, social isolation) are linked to high levels of psychophysiological stress. Santos & Lu (2016) suggest that typical stressors of professional drivers, such as working overtime …increase the risk of traffic accidents, aggressive driving, fatigue…numerous researches have demonstrated that certain health conditions (e.g., poor mental health and cardiovascular problems) of professional drivers may affect their capacity to safely operate motor vehicles and therefore increase their risk of road accidents, occupational injury and even early deaths.”
Another study shows that 27% of professional drivers suffer mental health conditions versus 5% of the general population. This staggering figure means that fleet managers should consider the mental wellbeing of their delivery drivers as a top priority.
Learn the Warning Signs
If your driver comes to work with a sprained ankle from the softball game the night before, it’s pretty easy to spot – i.e. the driver is limping or using crutches. In contrast, spotting drivers with high levels of psychophysiological stress is more difficult. However, there are very recognizable signs and fleet managers should know them.
4 Warning Signs of Driver Stress:
- Engaging in risky driving behaviors like speeding and/or excessive take off
- Acting out of character: quick to anger, excessively late to work, poor appearance or personal hygiene, etc.
- Abusing substances and/or alcohol
- Shirking responsibility
For an easy-to-reference chart of early warning signs of stress, click here. Knowing how to spot these early warning signs may prevent tragedy this holiday season.
Create a Culture of Health and Wellness
To help delivery drivers manage stress during the holidays, fleet managers should create a culture of health and wellness. Studies show that professional drivers perform better when they are practicing good nutrition. However, when professional drivers are under pressure, they may go long periods without eating or drinking water. This behavior can lead to dangerous consequences. If a driver does take time for a meal, fast food restaurants or fuel stations are likely options for a quick bite. Unfortunately, these options rarely contain the nutrients that are needed to avoid conditions like hypertension and high stress. To encourage wellness, fleet managers should insist that their drivers take at least a 30-minute break during the day for eating a nutritious meal. Furthermore, getting out of the vehicle and walking or stretching can help a driver reset mentally and physically before finishing out the day.
Lastly, encouraging mental wellness cannot be understated. If a driver is suffering high levels of stress or other mental ailments, they need to feel comfortable to approach you. So, take the time to let your drivers know that mental health conditions are not a weakness and that you are there to help any time they need during the holidays and throughout the year.
By staying vigilant for warning signs and promoting a culture of wellness, fleet managers can help drivers manage stress and stay safer this holiday season.