To coincide with the upcoming launch of their new truck driver health program, the OzHelp Foundation (OzHelp) has published a paper which draws on national and international research findings into the poor health outcomes of heavy vehicle drivers.
OzHelp – a national suicide prevention organisation – has been funded through the Commonwealth Government’s Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative (HVSI), administered by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) to develop a health and wellbeing program for owner driver truck drivers.
The program ‘Health in Gear’ will shortly commence its pilot phase and is informed by the evidence-based findings outlined in the review.
OzHelp Chief Executive Officer, Mr Darren Black said the review was an essential first step in developing a targeted program to support drivers.
The review found the sedentary nature of the occupation combined with poor diet and a lack of exercise puts drivers at a higher risk of obesity and developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, mental-ill health, and cardiovascular health issues.
In addition, truck drivers are subject to constant time pressures, long shifts, tight deadlines and isolation which can lead to depression, anxiety and sleeping disorders.
Nationally truck drivers represent the second highest occupational group, after construction workers, at risk of suicide.
On average, truck drivers work 49 hours per week compared to the average working week of Australians which was 32.3 hours in 2019. Long work hours have an adverse impact on social connection, which also impact on mental health outcomes.
The review findings provided a foundation for OzHelp to engage with truck drivers. The outcome of this comprehensive co-design process is the Health in Gear program due for launch this month.
“The constraints under which drivers operate have a direct bearing on drivers’ physical health and wellbeing and there is a genuine desire from the driving community for things to change” said Mr Black.
“Drivers are exceptionally resilient. They have a special strength of character and have been incredibly open in sharing the challenges and contributing to the design of the program.”
NHVR Chief Executive Officer, Sal Petroccitto, said the health and wellbeing of heavy vehicle drivers was everyone’s business and was critical to improved safety outcomes.
“The HVSI provides funding to implementable, value-for-money projects that focus on improving road safety,” Mr Petroccitto said.
“Life on the road can be very tough on the mental and physical health of drivers and focusing on what we can do to support better health outcomes is a key priority for the NHVR.
“Healthy drivers are safer drivers. Projects like this that address the specific health challenges faced by drivers are critical to improving the overall wellbeing of our industry.”