In a year like 2020 it becomes easy to start to feel insecure and ask the question, are things getting worse? Unfortunately the answer seems to be that, as of last year, yes, things are getting worse
The data is supplied by an organisation called SuperFriend, which looks at separate industries to see how they are travelling in the mental health space. SuperFriend was started by industry super funds to examine the mental health of its members. I was pointed to the latest report on the trucking industry by Teletrac Navman earlier this week.
It does not make for pleasant reading and the first paragraph encapsulates this by telling us, “The transport, postal and warehousing industry’s overall thriving workplace index score fell from 59.3 in 2018 to 58.9 in 2019; the lowest score of any industry.”
In the five areas that SuperFriend examine, leadership, connectedness, policy, capability and culture, our industry came out at below the national average rating on every score. Plus, all of those scores went backwards during 2019.
One of the issues identified by the study found that, “Workplace stigma around mental health issues has increased over the last year, despite heightened encouragement of discussions about mental health (albeit from a low base).”
This tells us that the very worthy initiatives which have sprung up in recent years are not gaining much traction. This is going to be like a large supertanker to turn around, but the effort being put in is just not having the desired effect.
I suspect that the elephant in the room with all discussions around this topic is culture. We can be in no doubt that the trucking industry has its own distinctive culture and many of us who have lived in the industry for a long time, have been able to thrive in this culture.
The trouble is there have been a lot of people who have not been able to thrive in this environment and have been left behind. Some realise, often unforgiving, trucking isn’t the industry for them and get out while the going is good. For them, other, less dynamic industries will be a better fit and they will feel more comfortable.
However, there will be some who, having got into the industry, will find it difficult to get out and swap across to an industry with which they can better cope. There comes an age-point where you are virtually unemployable outside of your own industry.
For this cohort the stress created by the culture can be eating away at them and create issues. Others would be better able to cope if they thought their employer was doing anything to improve culture. Unfortunately, only one in three of those surveyed said they thought their employer was taking action to improve mental health and well-being. This is not a good result.
We seem to be putting undue stress on our workforce, and making the environment unattractive to prospective recruits. Perhaps it is time for the trucking industry to take a long hard look at itself, and the numbers.
We have an ageing workforce who are more stressed and the strain is creating mental health issues. There needs to be some real thought and action on the industry’s culture or we will see a dwindling, older workforce struggling to cope, at the same time as young people are put off by that same culture.