Post-traumatic stress behind the wheel

by Ron Harris

Many people have heard the term Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but how many of us have a plan in place to deal with the effects?

PTSD is a mental and emotional injury, which is not clearly visible, and affects people in various ways.

Typically, when we hear about a person suffering with PTSD, we associate it with those working in military and emergency services.

However, professional drivers can also suffer from PTSD.

Think about the number of driving professionals the transportation industry employs for the purpose of operating assets safely in the most unusual and stressful driving situations.

Conditions that a professional driver can be exposed to include extreme weather conditions, poorly maintained roads, inconsiderate drivers, closed highways coupled with traffic congestion and road rage.

These situations can weigh very heavily on drivers’ mental and emotional health.

Most companies have protocols in place for everything from a missed delivery to a chemical spill; the first person to call, along with the steps that need to be taken.

We also welcome industry representatives into our businesses to deliver training and assistance to prepare and plan for almost every occurrence.

However, many companies do not have the procedures in place to aid their professional driving force to deal with the traumatic situations associated with their career.

For instance, who will triage and lend aid to our drivers when they are dealing with the aftermath of being involved in, or having witnessed, a traumatic incident?

To make matters more complicated, drivers suffering from PTSD are potentially pulled away from their home and community for extended periods of time, which puts them at greater risk for not being able to access quality care or support in a timely manner.

Most of us can’t imagine the horrors of witnessing, being involved in, or being an unwilling participant in an accident situation; yet a professional driver may be mentally reliving that devastation and carnage every time they get behind the wheel.

Most high-stress careers implement a mandate to ensure counseling is readily available to their employees after dealing with high stress and emotionally damaging situations.

Should we not offer the same consideration to our professional drivers?

Consider the benefits of implementing a protocol to assist the driving force, and their families with the necessary tools to manage traumatic and stressful events.

Having effective counseling services available to the drivers, when needed, will help to ensure the best mentally prepared and focused drivers are on the road.

A great first step is consulting doctors, therapists, and mental health specialist to make sure they are the right fit for your company.

If you have an international operation, you might consider looking into counseling networks to ensure your drivers are able to receive assistance no matter where they are.

Remember, it’s not only your driving force that can witness a tragedy, any one of your employees can be exposed to trauma and therefore at risk of suffering from PTSD.

Being prepared with effective procedures and protocols will improve the safety of your operations and safety on the roads.


This month’s expert is Ron Harris. Ron is a senior trainer and has served the transportation industry for more than 23 years providing safety and training services. Northbridge Insurance is a leading Canadian commercial insurer built on the strength of four companies with a long-standing history in the marketplace and has been serving the transportation industry for more than 60 years. Visit them at

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