RED Wellbeing data shows thousands of business drivers are SAAD.

Analysis of more than 3,000 business drivers comes via RED Driver Risk Management’s Wellbeing Profiler. It shows they are suffering more anxiety, stress, tiredness and mental health issues in the winter months.

No time to hibernate

In what RED has dubbed ‘Seasonally Affective Driver Disorder’ (SADD), the phenomenon affects all types of business drivers. Whether they are in a company car, delivery van or HGV, the results show the potential for higher risk and lower productivity.

The combination of dark mornings and nights, winter weather and harder driving conditions are major factors. This is topped off by an increase in stress levels as the festive season approaches. The result is a marked spike in mental health issues during this period, according to RED .

Seeing the light

RED Driver Risk Management’s research shows a clear pattern, including:

  • A fifth of drivers (20%) claim to feel tired during the winter months, and for some the issue is worse still, with 12% claiming to be ‘exhausted’.
  • 10% say they experience anxiety during the darker days too.

The reporting also looks at employee attitudes and engagement in winter. It shows a significant shift in this area as well:

  • 8% drop in the number of employees feeling motivated,
  • 16% feeling ‘very discouraged’
  • 10% admitting ‘enthusiasm’ wanes

Out of darkness

“We ask 79 different questions,” reveals RED Driver Training’s CEO Ian McIntosh. These looked at areas such as tiredness, anxiety, employee engagement, mental clarity, decisiveness, self-esteem and lifestyle. “In every single metric, there is clear evidence that drivers struggle more in winter than other seasons”.

It is nothing new that driving during winter is more challenging. However, the survey reveals that even professional drivers are struggling in this season.

“This is the first time we have been able to definitively get a picture of the scale of it”. It showed that around one in 10 business drivers suffer from some form of SADD-related issue during the winter months. “That is a lot of employees who are struggling, and need help.”

Data from RoSPA shows that collision rates increase by 19% in the fortnight after the clocks are turned back. According to the NHS, the exact cause of SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is not fully understood. It is thought that a lack of sunlight might stop a part of the brain called the hypothalamus working properly. This, in turn, may affect the production of melatonin, making you feel sleepy. Also, lower serotonin levels can affect mood, appetite and sleep, and shift the body’s internal clock out of kilter.

Affecting change

SADD, believes Ian, “can result in more sick days being taken, reduced productivity and, of course, is a real danger too, exacerbating the risk of accidents”.

“Employers could do a number of things. They could try and reduce their mileage by doing more video-conferencing, or reschedule appointments so employees are not doing long drives in the morning or evening when the risks are higher.”

RED believe training for fleet drivers can make a real difference, including for those suffering from SADD. “We measure overall resiliency and drivers’ scores improved on average by 19.72% after training,” says Ian. “More interestingly, those that kept going and continued with the programme for more than four months, improved on average by an impressive 30.54%”. He believes this allows drivers “to combat the feelings of fatigue, stress and anxiety” more easily, making them more productive and safer.