Don’t forget a responsibility for mental health

Traffic Commissioner (TC) Tim Blackmore makes a valid point when he raises the topic of mental health. It’s part of his views on driver conduct hearings and the reform that is required of them.

While a serious issue with a driver’s mental health that becomes apparent at such a hearing can be flagged up, TCs have no power to suspend entitlement for that reason alone.

Whether they should be able to or not is a topic for debate. TCs are unlikely to be qualified mental health practitioners. Even when they do suspend a PCV driving licence, there is currently no method for them to inform the driver’s employer.

But the rebound comes back to the operator and the Transport Manager (TM). If a driver cannot do their job properly, the company’s risk management procedure should prevent them from getting behind the wheel, says Mr Blackmore.

Some may sniff at the idea of mental health being an issue, but the responsibilities – and the risks – are real. One driver called to a conduct hearing recently was found to be suicidal.

This is all relevant to the obligation of a TM to exercise effective control. That’s a hot topic for TCs. Senior TC Richard Turfitt has already made some strong comments about it.

Does an awareness of mental health among drivers constitute part of discharging that responsibility? Yes. Gone are the days where any obvious sign could be ignored and regarded as someone else’s problem.

Should there be an incident involving a driver with mental health issues, it’s likely that the operator concerned will be asked questions. That alone should be enough to focus minds and demonstrate that this is a real issue.