Figures released by the Transport Workers’ Union have revealed an alarming rate of mental health issues within the industry and prompted a new plan to tackling the subject.

A survey of more than 4,000 truck drivers uncovered that up to one in five workers experienced mental health issues, while a prior study revealed truck drivers have a seven per cent higher risk of developing depression compared with other occupations.

Transport Workers’ Union secretary Tony Sheldon believes a number of factors contribute to these statistics.

“There are many reasons why transport workers are more vulnerable than other professions to mental health problems: long hours away from family and the stresses that puts on relationships; low pay and poor working conditions; and in the case of truck drivers, high injury and fatality rates,” Sheldon said.

The TWU launched a new partnership with mental health organisation Beyond Blue in a bid to improve training across the union to better prepare members with mental health issue amongst workers.

“This initiative will seek to provide support to those living with mental health problems but also to make recommendations on what needs to be done to tackle them,” Sheldon added.

The initiative will also move towards engagement of employers and clients on developing workplace policies on mental health.

The plan is one of a number focuses on the crisis in transport, along with low pay, poor conditions, and high injury and fatalities rates, which will be discussed by the Transport Workers’ Union at the union’s National Council in Fremantle this week.

A study by Deakin University showed 323 truck drivers committed suicide between 2001 and 2010. An analysis by the Victorian coroner’s court shows truck drivers had the highest number of suicides out of any other profession, with 53 drivers taking their own lives between 2008 to 2014.

“There are particular pressures on truck drivers which makes the job Australia’s deadliest and is the reason why one in three workers killed last year was a transport worker. Often the cause of this pressure is the role played by wealth retailers and manufacturers which continually lower their transport costs, financially squeezing for transport companies and drivers and forcing a race to the bottom in the industry. Because of this drivers are forced to speed, drive long hours and skip breaks just to support their families.” Sheldon added.

For anyone experiencing mental health issues please call 1300 DRIVER or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636