The challenges for heavy vehicle drivers to maintain their mental and physical wellbeing are well documented. And we also know that healthier drivers are safer drivers.
But the disconnect between goal and reality comes because the demands of the job – long hours with little time for exercise and good nutrition – not only drives poor health but makes it difficult to access the services truck drivers need for better health.
Now, an industry program is connecting drivers with better physical and mental health outcomes by delivering health checks where transport and logistics workers are: at roadside pit stops and major distribution centres.
Health in Gear performs on-site 10 minute health checks and, based on results, highlights small and achievable changes drivers and logistics workers can make to improve their wellbeing.
“One of the key facets of the program is that it’s about taking small actions for sustainable long term change,” explains OzHelp Foundation’s Clinical Director Emily Brown.
“So it’s not about a complete overhaul of your life. It’s working with them collaboratively, based on their health check, to go ‘okay what’s some small steps you can take that will improve your wellbeing’. Things that are going to work for them, noting the hours they work and the challenges of working in the industry.”
So far, the program has delivered about 1,000 health checks, with those who have participated often promoting the program to their work mates.
Early results have also confirmed the program has been positively received as well as successfully contributed to drivers and other workers making changes, such as reducing sugary drinks and taking healthier foods in the truck, increasing or returning to exercise, and making and keeping GP or mental health support appointments.
Drivers have reported feeling healthier and more energetic through the day and at home, getting more and better quality sleep, happier moods, reduced headaches and pain, and improved blood pressure.
Individual health, community benefit
Two of the program’s features that have addressed barriers to acceptance and success are that it is delivered on site, removing the need to find the time and motivation to book a GP health check, and that it was deliberately designed to be a brief intervention that could fit into tight working schedules.
And, as Emily Brown explains, the program was developed in consultation with owner drivers and the wider transport industry, with drivers themselves highlighting diet and exercise, sleep, connections with family and friends, financial wellbeing and on-the-job pressures as the major issues impacting their health and wellbeing.
Emily will discuss the program, which is based on a similar OzHelp initiative for the construction industry, and how it expanded from a pilot with owner drivers to the wider transport and logistics industry, in NRSPP’s May webinar, Health In Gear: Turning Truck Driver’s Health Around Where They Work.. It is also discussed in more detail in this NRSPP Thought Leadership piece, Health in Gear: Turning Truck Driver and Logistics Worker Health Around.
The benefits of the Health in Gear program, Emily added, extend beyond individual participants with better health and wellbeing improving productivity and professional and family relationships as well as making ‘truckies’ safer drivers.
“It’s also about reducing some of the stigma around discussing these issues, particularly mental health and the impact that can have. Our programs, both the mental health and wellbeing of drivers and other workers, are around early intervention.
“So if we’re able to prevent someone having an acute mental health issue or get them to a doctor earlier so, for example, they’re placed on medication to assist with a physical health problem, that means their productivity is increased or at the level that means their doing the job properly, and they’re putting thought into how they can be at their best.
“That ultimately means they’re not going to be making decisions on the road that may lead to crashes or them not being as productive as they could be – even if you do something quite small the impact in terms of driver health and wellbeing and therefore productivity and economy is quite significant.
“So for us it’s around making prioritising their health and wellbeing a normal part of what they do, which ultimately has a flow-on effect for family, relationships and their workplace.”