FTA launches mental health initiatives for van drivers

Published 03 January 2019

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has launched the Calm Van Initiative in a bid to address mental health issues among drivers.

The organisation is attempting to raise awareness of the problem and available support by offering an information pack to van leasing and rental companies that can be issued to their customers when a new vehicle is handed over.    

The scheme is run in conjunction with mental health charity Calm (Campaign Against Living Miserably) and includes advice about where and how to get support for those who believe they may be suffering from poor metal health.

Information is typically supplied in the van's handover pack and costs £2 per vehicle, which the FTA passes on to Calm, and it is at the discretion of the leasing or rental company as to whether they absorb the fee or pass it on to the customer.

“We’ve engaged with the lease companies and rental businesses within FTA, and with Calm, to create a mental health awareness pack, which the lease companies will attempt to have specified with new vehicles,” said Mark Cartwright, head of the FTA’s Van Excellence scheme.

“It includes a little bit of resource, access to a website with more details and the Toolbox Talk [the FTA’s presentation tool] that we’ll make available for companies to talk about mental health issues.”

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Prior to launching the initiative, the FTA asked a number of members about the age and gender of their van drivers, who were collectively reported to be 99 per cent male and around 75 per cent of under-45s. According to Calm, suicide is the biggest killer of UK men aged under-45 and, when approached by the FTA, the charity suggested van drivers could be “an absolute hotbed for mental health issues”.

The organisation has also launched its Van Excellence app, which is primarily intended as a vehicle inspection tool but also addresses driver welfare. It serves as a replacement for paper-based vehicle safety checks carried out by the driver before a day’s a work, in a similar vein to mandatory inspections for HGVs. 

“Bear in mind that something like eight per cent of van drivers are based at home, handing a piece of paper into a traffic office or a gatehouse doesn’t work if that driver is at the other end of the country,” said Cartwright, “a driver can fill it in [and], with a smart device, we can time stamp it, we can date stamp it, we can even geo-stamp it if we want to and we can take photographs.”

The app also asks users about their personal wellbeing and fitness to drive, which is a section they have to complete before they can proceed to the vehicle check. 

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“We’re asking them: you’re not under the influence of drink, you’re not under the influence of drugs, you confirm that you’ve got the licence that’s required to drive the vehicle and you’re also confirming that, to the best of your knowledge, you have no medical conditions which would affect your ability to drive,” added Cartwright.   

He acknowledged that entering false information would render responsibility with the driver in the event of an incident and said an imminent update to the app would, at the operator’s discretion, add push notifications reminding drivers about the availability of mental health support and the importance of hydration during a day’s work. Notifications would be received when the vehicle is stationary.

The app costs £2 per month, per vehicle and is available for Apple and Android devices and Windows phones on request. It can be downloaded from the Apple App and Google Play stores but users will require access to the FTA’s portal in order for the service to function, so interested parties are advised to contact the organisation on info@vanexcellence.co.uk.

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