People who drive all kinds of trucks, from light rigids to road trains are being encouraged to take part in a survey to provide insight into the health of Australian drivers.

Monash University has launched the Driving Health Survey with the aim to improve the health of Australia’s 200,000 plus drivers and make the industry safer.

Transport workers experience specific health risks in their working environments, including isolation, long hours and chronic fatigue. Tight delivery deadlines can add extra stress to an already challenging workplace.

Last year, a landmark study on transport workers led by Monash University examining 12 years of data, identified that truck drivers are 13 times more likely to die on the job than other workers.  This research also showed that truck drivers face a significantly higher risk of breaking bones and developing musculoskeletal injuries at work.

“This study is a wake-up call,” said Michael Kaine, National Secretary for the Transport Workers’ Union. “Driving is a tough job. We must do more to ensure our drivers are healthy and safe at work. This survey will give us a baseline of information that will allow us to put in better strategies for the future.”

The most recent report released by Monash University shows that truck drivers are receiving significantly more pain killer prescriptions than other workers following a work-related injury or illness. Almost one third of drivers who are prescribed opioid medications (strong painkillers) are still using them two and a half years after their injury. According to the report, the use of stronger opioids among drivers is associated with longer time off work following injury.

“This report shows that injured drivers are not necessarily receiving care in line with recommended guidelines for medication use,” said Dr Ross Iles from the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University. “The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners guidelines suggest that opioid medications should be a short-term option and that long-term use should be uncommon.”

This study highlights the immediate and long-term health risks facing Australian truck drivers who already have an elevated risk of work-related injury. However, the findings are limited to injuries and illnesses incurred directly through working conditions and events at work.

To get a complete the picture of truck driver health, Monash and study partners the Centre for Work Health and Safety, Linfox and the Transport Workers Union launched Australia’s largest survey of truck driver health. The Driving Health Survey is now open, with more than 800 drivers already taking part. The researchers are looking to hear from more drivers, particularly owner drivers, to fully understand how to help drivers be healthy and stay healthy at work.

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