Being a professional driver means getting medicals. Starting a new job driving up to 32 tonnes of shifting mass, employers need to know if you are fit and able to carry out tasks and that you are not going to collapse at the wheel from a heart attack and plough into a load of pedestrians.
I agree that these medicals should be carried out. After all, it is a matter of health and safety and it is in the public interest to have safe drivers on our roads. It is also for insurance purposes, but that’s not something I’ll delve into here.
I recently went to a medical for a job thats starts in the new year. The medical assessment centre was in a large detached house. Stately looking. The inside had been transformed into assessment rooms but it had not lost the homey feel.
I was two minutes in when the doctor raised the issue of my mental health.
“You suffer from anxiety and depression.”
“Have you ever tried to commit suicide?”
“What did you take?”
“I didn’t, I cut my wrist.” I don’t add that it was a terrible attempt or that it left me feeling humiliated.
“Do you have any suicidal tendencies now?”
“Any thoughts of self harm?”
“I have to ask because, obviously, if you are feeling suicidal…a truck is a pretty big weapon.”
She asked me if I was on medication. I gave her the names of the medications and she noted them down. She then asked me if I felt okay to drive on my medication.
“Yes, I’ve been driving and performing other roles at Gatwick Airport and I’ve never felt tired or been effected by my medication whilst driving.”
Her gaze lingers a little too long.
After the rest of the assessment had taken place, the doctor gave me her final verdict. She told me that she would send off all the information to the DVLA and that they would likely get in touch with me regarding my health issues.
Sure enough two weeks later I received a confirmation letter asking me to list my medication once again and exactly what I was using each one for. At the bottom of the form I was made aware that if I did not meet certain criteria, my licence could be suspended.
What was meant to be an application for a new licence could effectively mean that I lose my licence and therefore the predominant qualification I have. My job prospects would be slashed.
Whilst I believe that medical examinations should take place for professional drivers, is it right that, because I suffer from mental health issues and take medication, I should be stripped of my driving licence?
Since I have never suffered adverse effects from my medications (I wrote a personal letter to this effect and sent it along with the form that the DVLA sent to me as an attempt to give some more grey to the somewhat black and white simplicity of the questions) does the move to pull my driving licence technically become discrimination?
It might not be, but it sure feels like it. I am depressed and work offers a distraction. Without work I might not be able to pay my side of the mortgage and that could lead to more dire circumstances. I may fall back into depression because of my inability to find work.