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The health hazards faced by fleet drivers

Oct 20, 2017

Over recent decades there has been a deterioration in working conditions for those driving delivery trucks and long distance vehicles for a living. This is largely due to an increase in traffic pollution, traffic congestion, noise pollution and the requirement to meet tight delivery schedules. In turn this can cause increased conflict with customers and higher levels of stress for drivers.

Traffic pollution

The EU introduced regulations limiting emissions in July 1992 and those standards have gradually become more stringent over time. Despite this, drivers are now exposed to more pollution than ever before, simply because there is more traffic on the roads. Even with air filters fitted as standard in the cabs of long distance lorries, there is only a certain amount of pollution these can filter out. Delivery drivers are in and out of their cabs frequently, so have a greater exposure to polluted air and, at delivery depots, many drivers leave their engines running, further polluting the air around them.

As a result of exposure to pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and carcinogenic diesel particulates, drivers are susceptible to illnesses. It’s not unusual for drivers to fall victim to asthma, headaches, coughs, bronchitis, sore eyes and, more seriously, lung and bladder cancers.

Injuries on the road

Individuals who drive for a living have a greater risk of being injured on the road. There is also a greater chance of causing injury to other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, simply because they spend longer behind the wheel.

For drivers doing shift work and long distance lorry drivers, there is an even greater risk as they are more likely to be in the roads between the hours of midnight and 8.00 am. During the night and early hours of the morning the probability of being involved in an accident is double that of the hours between 8.00 am and midnight. And between the hours of 3.00 and 6.00 am the chances of falling asleep at the wheel increases 70 fold. Various research studies suggest that almost a third of lorry drivers have actually fallen asleep at the wheel and almost two thirds have come close.

Eating on the go

Lorry drivers tend to have unhealthy diets, eating more convenience food on the go and making poor choices. In general, they eat more fat and refined carbohydrates and less fresh fruit and vegetables. They also don’t drink enough water and are more likely to smoke. All these factors contribute to the onset of ulcers and gastric problems.

Tiredness and stress

There are lots of reasons why lorry drivers suffer from stress as a result of their job. They are often away from their family for long periods of time and work on their own, leading to loneliness and, in some cases, mental health issues.

Working long hours and changing shift patterns result in insomnia, increasing tiredness and making it less easy to cope with stressful situations, such as traffic conditions and negative feedback from customers.

Low frequency noise also contributes to tiredness and can damage hearing over the long term.

Exercise and illness

The very nature of the job demands that lorry drivers sit in one place for long periods of time, with little chance of exercise or simply standing up and moving about. In fact, numerous research studies suggest that over half of lorry drivers suffer from lower back pain. The exposure to vibration and posture at the wheel have been identified as the main reasons for this.

Drivers also complain of lower leg, ankle and foot pain as a result of having to keep constant pressure on the accelerator, thus leaving their foot in the same position.

For delivery drivers there is an increased risk of arm and back problems caused by lifting heavy goods in and out of their trucks.

What can fleet managers do to help their drivers?

There are a number of simple steps that you can take as a business to help minimise the risks, as well as advice you can give your drivers to stay healthy:

  • Use fleet management systems to plan routes and schedules that, as well as saving fuel and are more productive, create less punishing shift patterns and are more realistic to a driver’s well being, reducing stress and taking into consideration their health and family life.
  • Fit truck cabs with technology that recognises signs of drowsiness and train drivers to take breaks when they start to feel tired.
  • Promote healthy lifestyles and exercise at work. Even 10 minutes of exercise a day will make a difference. Exercises focused on muscle strengthening will help to reduce pain and regular stops built in to the schedule will enable drivers to stretch their legs.
  • Advise drivers to drink plenty of water during the day to stay hydrated and encourage them to make healthy choices when they stop to eat.

Consider taking out life and critical illness cover

Having adequate life protection in place to provide financial recompense should disaster strike, gives peace of mind and reassurance that dependants will be secure if a breadwinner is no longer around to meet household costs. And critical illness cover pays out if the insured contracts a serious illness* and survives – invaluable if they are no longer able to work or earn an income.

Life and critical illness cover is perhaps more affordable than you might think. With Anthony Jones it is even more affordable with a 10% discount that we are able to offer through Zurich Insurance.

Find out more about the benefits of life and critical illness cover and the costs involved.

It’s possible to get a quote and have cover in place quickly and simply using our online quote and buysystem. Use the code AJSAVE10 to take advantage of the 10% discount available.

*We use Zurich Insurance for critical illness cover which protects you if you contract one of 85 stated conditions.


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