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Truck driver health problems revealed in review, sparks aid program

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Mental health support organisation OzHelp Foundation is launching a new truck driver health program based on its latest review that draws on national and international research findings.

OzHelp 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.

Shortly to commence its pilot phase, the “Health in Gear” program is informed by the results of the review.

The review found that 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 a statement, OzHelp said that drivers are subject to constant time pressures, long shifts, tight deadlines and isolation which can lead to depression, anxiety and sleeping disorders.

The not-for-profit foundation also said that 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.

OzHelp CEO Darren Black said the review was the first step in developing a program for drivers.

“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 Black.

“Drivers are exceptionally resilient and have a special strength of character. Many have been incredibly open in sharing the challenges and contributing to the design of the upcoming program,” he said.

NHVR Chief Executive Officer Sal Petroccitto said the health and wellbeing is critical to improved safety outcomes.

“The HVSI provides funding to implementable, value-for-money projects that focus on improving road safety,” 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 NHV,” he said.

Petroccitto also stressed that 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.”

The review was drafted by Michelle Jones, and edited by Dr. Meg Perceval and Dr. Doris Kordes, OzHelp Foundation. Dr. Coralie Wilson from the University of Wollongong provided advice on the content and structure.

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