Being a taxi driver or managing a taxi fleet can be very rewarding but when depression strikes, it can be difficult to know where to turn. Read this Taxi Insurer guide to taxi driver depression and protect your drivers now.


Taking care of your drivers’ mental health is all part and parcel of being a responsible employer – just like having the right taxi fleet insurance in place.


All about taxi driver depression


When people talk about ‘feeling depressed’ it can just mean they’ve been feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days. But in fact, clinical depression is much more than that.


According to the NHS, while most people will go through bouts of feeling down, when you're clinically depressed you’ll feel persistently sad for weeks or even months at a time, rather than for just a short period.


Some people may think depression isn’t a genuine health condition, that it’s something you can simply ‘snap out of’ by ‘pulling yourself together’. But they're very wrong.


It’s a real illness with real symptoms from which it’s estimated that around 5% of the world’s population suffers - that’s approximately 280 million people! Indeed, the World Health Organisation reports that depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.


The good news is that with the right care and support, even people with severe depression can make a full recovery. But the key is to find help in the first place.


Recent research by ride-hailing app Free Now found that 20% of passengers are sharing their worries with taxi drivers and 65% find chatting with strangers works wonders at lightening their mood. Indeed, 15% have even stayed in contact with their taxi driver after their journey!


But while many passengers find it easy to offload, when it comes to the taxi drivers themselves it can be a different story. The Free Now research makes troubling reading for anyone who manages a taxi fleet and is worried their drivers may be suffering in silence.


The ride-hailing app found that 75% of its taxi drivers have found their mental health deteriorating in the previous 12 months, while 32% find themselves bottling up their emotions during their journeys.


Even more worrying is the fact that 48% don’t know where to turn to for support with their mental health. That’s a situation that has to change.


Causes of depression in taxi drivers


There’s no single cause for depression and it can be triggered by a whole variety of different reasons. It could be a traumatic life event, such as divorce or bereavement, or it could be a combination of pressures over time that gradually makes you feel worse and triggers depression.


When it comes to taxi and private hire vehicle (PHV) drivers, it’s well known the work can create a combination of factors that can contribute to poor mental health.


A recent Australian study found taxi drivers are five times more likely to report psychological distress than the general population. While more than half of all drivers were found to have experienced three or more potentially traumatic events in their lives.


Difficulties that taxi and PHV drivers can face as a result of their work include:


  • Long hours - While there are rules about how many hours you should be driving, many professional drivers do work longer to help boost their earnings.
  • Shift work – Drivers may have to work at unsociable times such as nights, evenings, weekends and holidays. While the pay may be better at these times, the work can be more stressful.
  • Low pay – When you’ve taken into account the costs involved in running a taxi or PHV, you might not be left with much for your effort.
  • Lack of physical activity – Sitting for hours at a time is bad for your physical and mental health. And when you’re worried about where the next fare is coming from this can play havoc with your stress levels.
  • Exposure to contaminants – Being exposed to exhaust fumes every day isn’t good for your physical health.
  • Isolation – While there can be some communication with other drivers and passengers, the life of a taxi driver can be very lonely.
  • Abusive customers – Unpleasant or abusive customers are an unfortunate but common occurrence and can leave you feeling upset or intimidated. After a long shift it might take a while for these feelings to go away, if at all.
  • Physical violence – Physical violence and robbery are some of the biggest threats to taxi drivers. Worrying whether you’ll be a victim of crime can put pressure on you and your loved ones.
  • Non-payment of fares Bilking is an age-old problem for taxi drivers. When someone makes off without paying it can damage you financially but also psychologically.
  • Increased competition from ride-hailing apps – There have been reports of black cab drivers in the capital suffering anxiety over the increased competition.


Watch this film from the Driven to Despair campaign that highlights the pressures drivers are under and the potential mental health crisis in the industry. For anyone in the taxi industry, it makes for pretty upsetting viewing.


All these issues, combined with a loss of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, means that drivers are experiencing an incredibly tough time. Depression and other mental health problems are a serious challenge to the health of the taxi industry alongside other normal business-related issues.


Specialist taxi fleet insurance gives your business an extra layer of protection, giving you one less thing to worry about.


Common signs and symptoms of depression


woman yawning at night


The earlier you can spot the signs of depression, the better. This can be a particular challenge in the male-dominated taxi industry where drivers work alone and are often less likely to ask for help.


Because so many people are unwilling to speak about such issues, it’s vital other drivers and taxi fleet managers are aware of the signs to look out for. If you’re looking for guidance and information on mental health problems then a great place to start is the mental health charity Mind.


Often the first signs someone is suffering from a mental health problem, like depression, are those you can physically see. These include:


  • Moving or speaking more slowly than usual. Or being restless and agitated.
  • Eating much more or less than normal.
  • Constipation and other digestive issues.
  • Complaining of aches and pains with no obvious cause.
  • Complaining about disturbed sleep or insomnia.


As well as the physical signs, you also need to be on the look-out for behavioural changes that might point to depression. Such changes could include:


  • Poor concentration and difficulty remembering things.
  • Avoiding social activities and interactions.
  • Having a low mood or crying.
  • Tiredness and lack of energy.
  • Talking less.
  • Changes in appetite.
  • Finding it difficult to control emotions.
  • Drinking more, excessive gambling or taking drugs.


Just because someone is displaying some of these signs, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have a mental health problem. However, it’s a good idea to use them as a way of checking in and starting a conversation about how they’re feeling.


Will depression affect your taxi business?


Taxi drivers are often reluctant to seek help for depression for fear that they may lose their licence. While this is an understandable concern, it really won’t help in the long term.


Ignoring the problem and hoping it will go away never helps. The NHS advises that if you experience symptoms of depression for most of the day, every day, for more than 2 weeks, then it’s time to see a GP.


If you’re unsure about whether you’re experiencing depression, the NHS has an invaluable online depression self-assessment tool. However, if you’re worried there’s no substitute for seeing your GP, or even just opening up to a friend or relative.


Licensing authorities assess taxi drivers’ mental health against the DVLA’s Group 2 medical guidelines. And having depression will not automatically bar someone from driving a vehicle.


Under the government guidance, whether or not you will be allowed to drive will depend on the effect of your depression on your ability to drive. When it comes to anxiety and depression, your GP will need to assess whether the condition causes ‘significant memory or concentration problems, agitation, behavioural disturbance or suicidal thoughts.’


If your depression is assessed as mild to moderate, you can continue to drive and don’t need to notify the DVLA about it.


However, cases of severe anxiety or depression do need to be reported to the DVLA and may prompt further investigation before any decision is made regarding a licence. This is true for both driving and taxi/PHV licences.


It’s important to note that being on medication for depression doesn’t usually disqualify someone from being licensed. According to DVLA guidance on severe anxiety or depression, ‘effects of severe illness are of greater importance for their relevance to driving than medication.’


Be aware that if you don’t tell the DVLA about a mental health problem that affects your ability to drive, you could be fined up to £1,000. And if you have a car accident, you might be prosecuted and it might invalidate your taxi fleet insurance.


Talk to your doctor if you have been prescribed any of the prescription medications listed on the government’s website. The Mind website also has more information on drugs and your fitness to drive.


Protecting your taxi fleet by encouraging drivers to get the help they need is just one way to keep business on track. Having the right taxi fleet insurance in place is vital, too.


Give the team at the Taxi Insurer a call today and make sure your fleet cover is up to date.


Self-care tips and treatment options


If you’re experiencing depression, it can be a very difficult time and you may feel powerless but there are things you can do to help. Here are some suggestions for you to consider:


Talk to someone you trust


Talking about how you’re feeling doesn’t come easily to many people, but even just sharing what you’re going through can help you feel better.


Get help from fellow taxi drivers


While every person’s experience is different, fellow taxi drivers may have been in a similar situation to you and might be able to offer support to each other. Connecting with others will help you feel less alone.


Try mindfulness


As a busy taxi driver, you might find it hard to take the time to pause and reflect. However, practising mindfulness can help to manage mild depression and other mental health issues.


For some mindfulness exercises and tips, visit this Mind help page.


Take care of your physical health


Experiencing depression can make it harder to look after yourself. But remember, our physical health affects our mental health.


Things you can do include getting enough sleep, eating a healthy balanced diet, taking some exercise, and reducing your use of drugs and alcohol. For yet more health tips for professional drivers read our handy guide.


Stay active


Physical activity can help reduce stress, increase energy levels, make us feel more alert, and help us get better sleep. Try some of the best in-car exercises we recommend for taxi fleet drivers.


Keep a note of how you’re feeling


Keeping track of your mood might show you that you’re having more good days than you think. It will also highlight if there are any activities, places or people that make you feel better or worse.


Try a mental health app


Taxi drivers need their phones for work but they can also be useful in dealing with depression. There are now many apps out there that can help with mental health. Why not try one of these apps?


Get outdoors


Easier said than done when you work in a busy city environment. But spending time in nature has been found to help with mental health problems like depression. Use your lunch break to get away from the wheel and walk in nature.


Do things that make you feel good


therapist talking to patient


For example, is there a favourite album or podcast you could listen to in the car? A book of helpful sayings, notes of encouragement, pictures or photos could all help when you need some comfort or a distraction.


As well as practising self-care, there are a range of treatments available through your GP that have been found to help anxiety and depression. These include:


  • Self-help programmes.
  • Talking therapies and counselling.
  • Antidepressant medication. Either on its own or in combination with another treatment.
  • Alternative treatments such as art therapy or mindfulness.


If you’re not feeling great, it’s important to seek help and support at the earliest opportunity with your GP. As well as providing access to counselling support and medication, they will also be able to ensure there’s no underlying physical cause for your symptoms.


Transport for London also points out that you can self-refer yourself to the NHS to access free psychological services via the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies scheme.


Search for your local NHS psychological therapies service here before completing the self-referral form.


If you’re finding taxi driving work is getting on top of you, read our guide to how to make taxi driving less stressful. From staying positive and adopting simple breathing techniques to knowing your route and staying fit, there are lots of easy ways to help reduce the stresses of driving for a living.


How a taxi fleet manager can help


Depending on the size of the fleet that you manage, chances are that at least one of your drivers will be dealing with a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression or stress.


To help them, and your business, here are some recommendations.


  • A regular check-in with drivers can go a long way to ensuring they feel valued and feel they work for a supportive business that cares about their wellbeing.
  • Create a work culture that supports open conversations around mental health. By helping drivers feel more comfortable discussing their concerns, they will be more likely to seek help when they need it.
  • When discussing mental health with drivers use your everyday people skills of common sense, empathy, being approachable, and listening. Mind has an excellent guide on how to support those who are experiencing mental health problems.
  • It’s vital that managers start off any conversation in a positive and supportive way. Just as you would when discussing physical health, a good place to start is simply to ask someone how they’re doing.
  • If someone is experiencing a mental health problem then it’s important to develop positive steps to address issues they’re dealing with. There might be simple workplace adjustments you can make which could help.
  • Celebrate your drivers. Taxi drivers are some of the country’s unsung heroes, going above and beyond for our communities. Recognising what they do can work wonders for self-esteem and wellbeing.
  • Work with drivers to ensure their tasks are achievable. Driving professionally is a stressful job at the best of times, without having to work to unrealistic schedules.
  • Offer managers sufficient mental health training and refreshers on a regular basis.
  • Make everyone aware of the support and resources available to them, either within the business or outside. Mind has a great list of useful contacts that might be able to help your business and drivers with depression.
  • Always be on the lookout for ways to minimise driver stress and fatigue.
  • Use taxi fleet management software to help with driving schedules so drivers aren’t put under undue pressure.
  • Encourage drivers to take regular breaks.
  • Be aware that the combination of dark mornings and nights, winter weather and harder driving conditions can create a spike in mental health issues. Referred to as ‘Seasonally Affective Driver Disorder’ (SADD), research suggests this condition could be affecting thousands of professional drivers.
  • Fleet managers should ensure all vehicles are safe and comfortable for drivers at all times.


Protecting your business with taxi fleet insurance


With so many vehicles and drivers to keep track of, managing a taxi fleet successfully is a big responsibility. So, it’s no wonder that sometimes taxi fleet managers can feel a bit stressed.


That’s why the specialist team at the Taxi Insurer is always looking for ways to help make life easier. Our specialist taxi fleet insurance cover comes in many different forms to suit all manner of fleets.


Benefits include options to pay in instalments, mirror no claims bonus from other insurance policies and a 24-hour claims management service.


Get a no-obligation taxi fleet insurance quote from the specialists today.