November 2, 2023

Driving change: The push for improved driver health and wellbeing

Truck driving is a common occupation in Australia. But there are many associated health risks that come with the job. So what can be done to mitigate these risks?

 Driving change: The push for improved driver health and wellbeing | Ofload

Did you know that truck driving is one of the most common occupations for male Australians? However, it is not the healthiest. The Driving Health project, a research study conducted to understand and improve the health and well-being of truck drivers, published its conclusions last year and the findings are alarming. 

The report found that:

  • One in five drivers under 35 years of age reported severe levels of psychological distress, compared to one in nine Australian men the same age. 
  • Almost a third of drivers had three or more diagnosed medical conditions, which is four times greater than the average for Australians.
  • Over half of the drivers surveyed were categorised as obese.
  • Truck drivers were found to be 13 times more likely to die at work than other Australian employees. 
  • The most common medical conditions for drivers were back problems, high blood pressure, and mental health issues.

Initiatives are emerging to support truckies 

The results from the Driving Health project are troubling, but probably not surprising for many of us working in the logistics industry. The silver lining we can take away from these survey results is that there is now more and more talk about driver’s physical and mental health entering mainstream conversations. The Healthy Heads in Trucks and Sheds Foundation was created to promote understanding around the mental health issues that exist across the road transport and logistics industries in Australia.

As a not-for-profit organisation, its mission is to champion mental health and wellbeing for all people in the supply-chain sector. They do this by providing courses and guidelines on mental health and wellbeing strategies for workers in the industry. As well as raising awareness around these specific issues for truck drivers, they also focus on prevention. Through raising awareness, providing support and advocating for truckies, they are helping to improve health outcomes for truck drivers in Australia. 

The effects of pollution and noise exposure on truck drivers

There is one area that is often missed in the documentation about driver’s health in Australia: those mighty diesel engines that power the trucks we all rely on.

Pollution and its effects on truck drivers

Diesel engines are both loud and cause pollution. They  emit carbon dioxide (CO2) as well as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), which have been linked to several health conditions. Research has shown that truck cabins can accumulate unhealthy levels of PM2.5 and NOx emissions, and according to the American Cancer Society, workers with the heaviest and most prolonged exposures to diesel emissions—such as truck drivers—have been found to have higher lung cancer death rates than unexposed workers. 

Noise exposure and truck driver health

The human hearing threshold sense is around 0 decibels (dB). Anything that is above this threshold is heard as a loud noise. Sounds that are above 90 dB can lead to chronic hearing damage, especially if a person is exposed to them constantly. Typically, a truck engine can produce noise at levels up to 90 dB.

When it comes to noise exposure, extensive research has already proven that it can lead to hypertension, hearing loss and high blood pressure. It’s worth noting here that high blood pressure is one of the most common medical conditions reported by drivers in the Driving Health study. 

How to meet these health challenges head on

The answer seems simple: Reducing or eliminating the pollution generated by truck engines seems necessary to improve the health of drivers. But how can we accomplish this when Australia relies so heavily on long-haul carriers?

Greener solutions for healthier drivers and a healthier environment

Implementing electric and hydrogen trucks is one way we can solve this problem. It has been proven that replacing diesel trucks with zero-emission trucks could save lives, reducing asthma attacks, improving the general health of truck drivers, and helping the environment. While electric trucks do not emit any gases, hydrogen trucks only emit water vapour. This makes these new types of trucks suitable solutions for improving drivers’ health and lowering their exposure to air pollution. 

What about noise exposure when it comes to green vehicles?

As technology continues to evolve, the jury is still out on whether or not hydrogen trucks are less noisy than diesel trucks. However, when it comes to electric trucks, Volvo claims that their BET trucks are 50% quieter than the diesel equivalent. Generally speaking, electric vehicles are quieter than vehicles with a petrol- or diesel-powered engine. This is due to the fact that there are fewer moving parts in an electric engine, and no combustion takes place. 

What truck drivers have to say about the impact of electric vehicles

Volvo’s FL electric trucks have been operating in Australia for more than a year now, and feedback from the drivers is starting to come in. An interview with a truck driver revealed a general satisfaction, even going as far as saying, “The truck itself is actually quite peaceful to drive, in some ways it’s just like any other truck but in others, it’s smoother, quieter, it’s enjoyable.” Based on positive driver feedback, the goal of reducing pollution and noise exposure have been met. “When I hop out of the truck, I don’t hear engine noise and I don’t have the fumes, none of that.”

The responsibility of logistics businesses to help carriers

Ofload is a proud partner of Healthy Heads. Members of the Ofload team have joined Healthy Heads out on the road for their roadshow events at popular truck stops to witness first hand how the Foundation promotes its mission and strives to help those in the trucking business. Healthy Heads has begun an important conversation about mental health in the industry. They also provide useful mental health resources for truckers. Used by drivers around the country, their app is designed to improve everyday access to mental health and physical well-being resources for truck drivers, especially when they’re out on the road with little or no access to important mental health services. 

Become a shipper or carrier with Ofload

When you sign up as a shipper or a carrier with Ofload, you’re joining a logistics company that values innovation and continuous learning, while also seeing the important need to support the drivers who work so tirelessly to deliver products across the country. We have more than 15,000 carriers in our database, making it easy for shippers to find a carrier to increase shipping visibility and eliminate inefficiencies. For carriers, we make it easy to sign up and get on the road with Ofload. The Ofload platform is easy to use and free to download, so you can get the most out of every single trip. 

Find out more about Ofload, our vision and our goals today. 

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