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Exhibit at Regina library explores how truck drivers cope with trauma

Exhibit at Regina library explores how truck drivers cope with trauma
Regina resident Morgan Beaudry, a graduate student at Royal Roads University in B.C., is studying truck drivers' trauma. Roberta Bell / Global News

A Regina woman is pioneering research into the trauma experienced by truck drivers involved in fatal or serious collisions.

Two years ago, Morgan Beaudry was looking for information on the condition of a truck driver involved in a horrific crash on the outskirts of the city two years ago — and she said she couldn’t find any.

“When we think about trucking, we recognize that it’s a dangerous profession, but we think more in terms of long hours of working alone of the physical dangers of back pain and knee pain,” Beaudry said in an interview with Global News.

“We don’t necessarily prioritize there could be mental dangers as well and mental trauma from exposure to distressing incidents.”

The graduate student at Royal Roads University in B.C. is investigating the subject for her master’s thesis using a method called photovoice, where participants in her study shared pictures and stories to describe their feelings. Part of the process includes publicly sharing the submissions.

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Beaudry’s project — Knights of the Road — is on display on the second floor of the Regina Public Library.

Truck driver Kim Wylie, who helped Beaudry recruit participants by sharing her call-out last year, travelled 2.5 hours from Humboldt, Sask., to see it when it went up in January.

READ MORE: Thousands of Canadians share letter of support for unidentified truck driver after deadly Humboldt crash

“The work that she put into that was phenomenal,” he said in a phone interview.

In his 39-year career, he has never been involved in the type of collision that would qualify him for Beaudry’s study, but knew of and knows of drivers who have.

“I’ve never attended or assisted in an accident, but you always think in the back of your mind that could have been you,” said Wylie, who, like many in his home community, was shaken by the Humboldt Broncos bus crash in April 2018.

READ MORE: How the trucking industry has changed 1 year after the Humboldt Broncos bus crash

Beaudry had actually begun her work prior to the tragedy but said she put it on hold in the immediate aftermath, noting it would have been unethical to pursue her research when participants were vulnerable. Truck drivers experiencing PTSD were disqualified from the study for the same reason.

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She resumed her project after the driver of the truck involved in the Humboldt Broncos crash pleaded guilty to causing the collision and was sentenced.

Fifteen truck drivers from across North America anonymously contributed to the Knights of the Road study.

Beaudry, who had more interest than she could use for the study, said she was surprised by the drivers’ desire to share and compassion for their victims.

She said one man who returned to the road after his involvement in a collision has flowers in his cab in memory of the victim. Beaudry learned the man intends to place them at the crash site, which he frequently drives past, but he isn’t ready yet.

A photo submitted by a truck driver for Beaudry’s research project.
A photo submitted by a truck driver for Beaudry’s research project. Roberta Bell / Global News

Heather Day, president of C.S. Day Transport Ltd., has also been a big supporter of the research.

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Opening up discussions about truckers’ mental health is “absolutely a crucial component of highway safety and driver safety,” she said.

“It’s very important. We know there’s a direct link between a driver’s mental health and how safe they’re going to be on the road,” said Day, whose company has had an employee family assistance program in place for approximately 20 years.

“I do know there are many good responsible carriers that do take driver’s mental health quite seriously,” she said. “We know that when those drivers do get that support, they’re able to go back to work. They’re able to be safe.”