Melissa Weller is the Australian Trucking Association’s Safety, Health and Wellbeing Director and addresses concerns about delivering on driver health.
Results from the latest Driving Health Study from Monash University show us that truck driver health in Australia is poor, with drivers more likely to be overweight and be diagnosed with more chronic health conditions than the general population.
The survey of nearly 1,400 drivers found more than half to be categorised as obese, with more than a third reporting to have diagnosed back problems and high blood pressure. The survey also found that nearly 20 per cent of respondents had been diagnosed with mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety in the last year.
Of those who experienced a mental health condition, 38.2 per cent said their workplace caused it or made it worse (SuperFriend Transport, Postal and Warehousing Profile Report, July 2020). These findings are unacceptable, so our industry must focus on solutions and better support our workforce to be mentally and physically healthier.
Comprehensive accreditation standards like TruckSafe are already making a difference for accredited operators’ employees.
By industry, for industry, TruckSafe is a robust system that improves the safety and professionalism of trucking operators nationwide, from business and risk management to driver health and wellbeing.
Our driver health and wellbeing standard is in place to ensure all drivers are fit and healthy, and that workplace health and safety requirements are being met. It requires that accredited members’ drivers complete regular driver medical examinations, with drivers 50 years and over required to have a yearly medical. Additionally, TruckSafe accredited operators are required to have driver health and a fitness for duty policies and practical procedures.
Ensuring driver safety at work is also a focus in the TruckSafe standards. By having safe and trusted procedures our members report that they see less stress in their workplace and experience less staff turnover. Our employees are our biggest asset. We must put looking after them first.
There are countless examples of how TruckSafe’s driver health and wellbeing standard has raised the bar for driver safety and delivered real outcomes for operators, as one of our members Fellows Bulk Haulage notes.
“I had a driver who was getting constant headaches,” said Paul Fellows, Fellows Bulk Haulage Director. “When he went in for his TruckSafe medical it was discovered he had sky-high blood pressure and we were able to take him off the road. Another driver went for his TruckSafe medical and the doctor discovered a melanoma, which was promptly removed.”
Not only do these driver medicals ensure truck drivers are fit to drive and be safe on the road, they also play an enormous and key role in maintaining staff health and wellbeing generally, in each of these cases they have saved lives.
Driver health isn’t only about physical wellbeing, it also encompasses mental health. As an industry, trucking has made great strides in improving mental health support and resources, most recently with the establishment of the Healthy Heads in Trucks and Sheds (HHTS) foundation.
With the support of industry and a strong national mental health and wellbeing strategy, HHTS aims to increase the number of people trained in mental health at transport and logistics facilities, standardise policies and regulation at these facilities, and help everyone in in the industry be healthier from a diet and mental health perspective.
On a more localised level, the ATA’s member associations are leading the way in improving driver health outcomes. The Queensland Trucking Association’s ‘Driving Better Health’ initiative is focused on promoting practical, small steps towards a substantial change in overall lifestyle choices of truck drivers.
Meanwhile, the Victorian Transport Association’s ‘HeadFit BusinessFit’ program is designed to create a positive workplace environment in employer companies by building workplace cultures, positive leadership, systems and process and individual support into transport and logistics organisations.
TruckSafe, Healthy Heads in Trucks and Sheds, and industry association initiatives are all examples of national and state-based action the industry is taking to improve driver health and wellbeing.
The findings in the Monash report are not reflective of where we want to be as an industry, but there is a lot of work being done to make things better. With the support of our peers, governments, and the wider community, we can achieve our goal of making a truck driver’s workplace a safer and healthier space for all.
To find out more about TruckSafe or to join, head to www.trucksafe.com.au