The author of the report, Dr Michael Hilton from the Park Centre for Mental Health in Queensland, said that it is important the research findings be extended into an action plan, but the report shows that drivers themselves resist treatment.
"Our research found that 91 per cent of drivers with symptoms of depression were not in treatment - we also found that HGV drivers have substantial barriers to treatment for mental health problems," said Dr Hilton.
"Educating those in the transport sector about mental health issues and reducing the stigma attached to help-seeking is important," he said. "The findings also point to the need to address the causes of stress in HGV drivers and reduce working hours," Hilton added.
Among the report's findings:
HGV drivers work an average of 62 hours per week. Sixty five per cent work longer, some more than 100 hours per week;
The number of hours worked each week is directly related to driver stress;
Drivers with symptoms of depression are twice as likely to have an accident, while those with severe symptoms of depression are nearly six times as likely to have an accident;
Being divorced increases the odds of depression by 5-times;
27 per cent of drivers scored positive for potential hazardous alcohol use with 3 per cent in the extreme risk categories;
8.9 per cent of drivers use a drug at least weekly, with the use of some drugs double that found in the normal population.
The survey was commissioned by Australian Rotary Health, conducted by Queensland University and supported by various bodies, including the NSW Transport Union and the National Transport Commission. Its findings have major implications for road safety throughout Australia.
This is the first time in the world that any attempt is made to study the mental health of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers.
Senior Manager (Safety) for the National Transport Commission, Dr Jeff Potter, said "The new 'Chain of Responsibility' laws which address the underlying causes of heavy vehicle driver fatigue, such as poor planned rest breaks and impossible deadlines, are a step in the right direction to improve working conditions."
Tony Sheldon from the NSW Transport Worker's Union, said, "The Federal Government's recent commitment to a system of safe rates and an inquiry into the link between rates of pay and safety in the transport industry are critically important for the future."
CEO of beyondblue: the national depression initiative, Leonie Young said, "We know that ongoing stress is a significant risk factor for depression and beyondblue is committed to working with the transport industry to address depression amongst drivers everywhere."