November 23, 2015
Mental Health Issues can Affect Truck Driver Performance
Commercial truck drivers are charged with operating extraordinarily large tractor-trailers, flatbed trucks, tankers, and other commercial vehicles at high speeds alongside small cars and other passenger vehicles on a regular basis. When a collision occurs, commercial trucks can cause catastrophic and often fatal injuries to motorists in smaller vehicles. Because of the significant risks of these collisions, it is critical that every commercial driver is in the appropriate mental state every time they get behind the wheel.
Despite the importance of proper mental health, many commercial drivers continue to work operating large trucks even though they know they suffer from emotional or mental conditions  that may affect their concentration, judgment, and other important faculties. Perhaps more concerning is the fact that, instead of seeking professional assistance, many truck drivers try to mask their mental health issues through self-medication. These drivers use alcohol or illegal controlled substances to regulate their thoughts and moods. Instead of stabilizing mental health, substance abuse often makes a person’s mental state even worse.
There is no excuse for commercial drivers to put other motorists at risk because they continue to drive with mental health issues and without seeking a proper mental health evaluation. Anyone who has sustained injuries in an accident due to a negligent truck driver should discuss their situation with a Philadelphia truck accident attorney as soon as possible.
Common mental health issues in truck drivers
Commercial truck driving is not an easy job. It involves controlling large vehicles for long hours alone on often monotonous strips of highway. Because the job conditions can cause boredom and loneliness, it is understandable that certain drivers may develop mental or emotional conditions. The National Institute of Health (NIH) conducted a study that indicated that a substantial number of drivers of commercial vehicles suffer from mental health conditions, including the following:
- Chronic loneliness
- Chronic insomnia or other sleep disturbances
- Personality disorders
- Other types of emotional impairments and issues
All of the above have the potential to affect a driver’s judgment, focus, decision-making abilities, and more. Additionally, some mental health issues can lead to recklessness or even aggression on the road, which can be highly dangerous.
FMCSA has mental health requirements
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has medical requirements  to ensure that all individuals are in adequate health to operate a large vehicle before they can get or renew their commercial driver’s license. Drivers must undergo a thorough medical exam conducted by a medical professional approved by the FMCSA. In addition to looking for any dangerous physical health problems, these examiners should also look for any potential mental health issues, as well. Doctors should consider the mental and emotional effects and demands of truck driving when determining whether to sign off on a particular driver’s health. A driver may need to undergo a psychiatric evaluation in order to meet these requirements. If a driver does have a mental condition but is taking the proper medication to regulate it and the medication does not impair their other faculties, a driver may still be approved depending on the other circumstances present.
Even if a driver initially passed the medical exam, they still need to report if they begin suffering from any mental health issues and should always seek proper treatment. Furthermore, if a trucking company believes that one of its drivers is having problems with their mental or emotional health, the company should require the driver to be evaluated and to receive any recommended treatment for a mental health diagnosis before they can continue driving. If a truck driver or their employer continues to allow the driver to operate a commercial vehicle knowing that mental instability may exist, they should be held liable for all injuries and losses that result from an accident.
Contact an experienced Philadelphia truck accident attorney today
There is no excuse for a truck driver who is operating a commercial truck with a mental or emotional problem that may hider their ability to safely drive the vehicle. Doing so is extraordinarily dangerous and puts the safety of everyone else on the road at risk. Following an accident, it is important to consider the health of the driver to determine whether that could have contributed to or caused the collision. At The Levin Firm, we understand the many possible causes of truck accidents and will investigate to identify any possible negligent acts in your case. Please call for a free consultation at 215-825-5183 today.