As an industry they ensured vital supplies were delivered across Australia during the pandemic, effectively keeping the country moving, even though borders were often closed. But mostly they suffer from a variety of health issues in silence.
With truck driving being one of the most common forms of employment for Australian men – one in 33 males drives a truck – the study has revealed a critical need for additional support services to ensure their ongoing health.
On the physical side of things, the Monash Uni/TWU study revealed that more than 80 per cent of drivers are overweight or obese. More than 70 per cent live with chronic pain and almost a third have multiple chronic health conditions. One third have a diagnosed back problem – double that of the average Australian male – and more than a quarter have high blood pressure.
One in five drivers suffer from severe psychological distress, compounded by long hours, driving long distances, isolation and loneliness.
Other key findings of the study include:
- Truck drivers work extremely long hours. Half of those surveyed work 41-60 hours per week and 37.5% working more than 60 hours per week.
- 13% of drivers reported having a crash in the past year.
- Over 70% said they had a near miss on average once per week. Having three or more chronic conditions nearly doubles the odds of experiencing a crash.
- Almost a third reported having three or more of the health conditions listed, compared to 7.8% of the general population.
- Half of drivers reported some level of psychological distress. The proportion of truck drivers under 35 with severe psychological distress was almost double that of the average for Australian males for that age bracket.
Driver and family member interviews by the Monash University researchers found seven key areas that impacted a truck driver’s physical and mental health:
- Access to healthy food, exercise and sleep
- Stressors of being on the road
- Quality of personal relationships
- Conditions in the workplace
- Regulations and policies drivers have to follow
- Access to parking and rest facilities
- Attitudes of people about truck drivers
To be healthy and stay healthy at work a balance is required across these factors.
Lead Monash University researcher on the study, Dr Ross Isles, said, “This year has shown us the critical role that truck drivers have in keeping Australia moving. They frequently experience isolation and separation from loved ones, and the nature of long-haul work in particular offers limited opportunities for incidental physical activity and good nutrition. This reveals a need for additional supports to ensure they can do their work safely – it’s our turn to keep them moving.”