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Submission to the NTC review of transport medical standards

24 August 2009

Truck drivers should be screened for depression as part of the medical checks for their driver’s licence, TruckSafe or fatigue accreditation, according to the ATA’s submission to the National Transport Commission review of the transport medical standards.

Statistics show drivers with mild depression are more than twice as likely to have an accident or near miss as drivers who do not have depression. Drivers with very severe depression are almost six times more likely to have an accident or near miss.

Given the accident risk associated with depression, the ATA believes it would be appropriate to add a screening tool to the patient questionnaire filled in by truck drivers before they undertake their medicals, such as the K10 questionnaire used in the medical standard for safety critical rail workers.

The K10 questionnaire asks ten questions about the patient’s feelings over the last four months. It can be incorporated into the questionnaire that drivers are already asked to fill out; no extra tests or costs are required.

Truck drivers whose questionnaire results indicate depression should then be referred for help. Because of the limitations of any screening tool, drivers referred for help should continue to hold their licence without restrictions, unless those are warranted on clinical grounds.

The ATA submission also recommends that:

  • the standards should require practitioners to map out a treatment and review program for commercial drivers with a blood pressure of less than 200/110 but greater than 150/95 unless the driver is already receiving treatment.
  • practitioners should receive more guidance on identifying and assessing the safety risks of hypoglycaemic unawareness; that is, when a person does not recognise they are suffering the early symptoms of a diabetic attack.
  • the commercial standard for diabetes controlled by diet alone should require practitioners to ensure that diabetic drivers understand the critical importance of having regular meals and managing their fatigue, and that they understand how to manage their meals and fatigue under the trucking industry’s operating conditions.
  • the sleep apnoea standard for commercial drivers should require practitioners to assess their physical measurements, such as their neck circumference, as well as the results of the questionnaire they fill in. Commercial drivers whose physical measurements indicate a high likelihood of sleep apnoea should be referred for further investigation.