Battling the Blahs


Experts tell us that at this time of year — especially in the northern hemisphere — depression can run rampant.

It’s not hard to understand why. We’ve got cold weather; snow; slush all over the place and short, dark days. Add to that the whack of bills everybody is faced with after Christmas and a gloomy business climate and all you have to do is read about it and you start feeling down.

In our industry, wintertime blues is a serious and potentially dangerous issue.

There’s a good chance you’ll see an increase in collisions, safety violations and injuries at this time of year.

When people are depressed, they become apathetic. A depressed driver probably won’t do proper vehicle inspections, and neither will he be alert and aware of his surroundings while behind the wheel or when loading, doing paperwork, unloading, etc.

Over the years I have interviewed many drivers who were involved in collisions and injuries, and almost 95 percent of the time I found that the driver’s emotional state played a measurable role in the mishap.

As far as I’m concerned, a driver who shows signs of depression should be taken out of the truck until he has a better handle on things.

Depression can also cause drivers to become very irritable. They will get angry over things that normally wouldn’t bother them, and everybody knows that anger can contribute to bad decision-making.

And let’s not even discuss road rage. Any driver showing even the slightest sign of rage shouldn’t be allowed behind a wheel.

So what can you do to help minimize depression and anger during this bleak time of year?

The first step is to recognize it as a problem; everyone needs to be aware of the February blahs and how the malaise can negatively impact your company.

Reminding your drivers of the consequences they will face if they aren’t on their game all the time will bring it to the forefront of their minds and help them deal with it.

If you run an operation that has southbound trips into warmer climates, try to share those among your drivers. Just seeing sunshine and being in warm weather can help fight depression. That’s why people vacation in Florida.

If you don’t run south then maybe scheduling some off-duty time or allowing drivers to take a significant other with them on a run can help. For worst-case scenarios you should have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in place so whoever needs help can talk to somebody about their issues.

Don’t forget to include your dispatch and administration personnel. They can also suffer from the blahs and their actions can affect their co-workers, clients and business, too.

Sometimes, something as simple as pot-luck lunches or extra-curricular activities for your internal staff can help keep people feeling better and focused on their jobs.

You might consider introducing an awareness campaign so people will understand the consequences of the seasonal mood change so they will at least be aware of it.

And remember that anger and depression can affect your staff anytime of year.

It’s just worst during this shortest month.

Especially if business isn’t as brisk as you’d like it to be. Uncertainty about the future is extremely hard on everybody.

And don’t forget. Spring’s just around the corner.

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