Safety fears over plan for truckie depression test
A PROPOSAL to screen truck drivers for depression as a requirement for licensing should not be implemented without ensuring access to mental health services is guaranteed, an expert has argued.
As part of the National Transport Commission’s review into the medical standards on Assessing Fitness to Drive guidelines, the Australian Trucking Association recommended drivers be screened for depression, in line with tests already administered to safety-critical rail workers.
In the association’s submission to the review, chair Trevor Martyn said severely depressed drivers were almost six times more likely to have a crash or near-miss as compared to those without the illness.
Drivers identified as at risk should receive help and continue to hold their licence, unless otherwise warranted on clinical grounds, he added.
But Adelaide GP Dr David Tye – who advised the commission on its 2003 Assessing Fitness to Drive guidelines – said such screenings would be dangerous unless mental health services were more widely available.
“The parlous state of mental health care services and the poor access to them could mean the induction of significant risk for those drivers who fail,” he said. “If you’ve just taken away a person’s [livelihood], it’s not going to do well for his depression.”
The re-drafted Assessing Fitness to Drive guidelines are expected to be released in February 2010.
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