A Monash University study, done in partnership with Linfox and the Transport Workers Union, takes a more holistic approach, to identify opportunities to improve health and wellbeing amongst truck drivers, the study seeks to characterise the nature of injury and disease more broadly. The team are looking beyond road crashes and into things like mental health conditions, back pain and hearing loss which are all areas of major concern in truck drivers.
“Truck drivers are a vital part of the Australian economy, and this is the first step towards getting a complete picture of their health and wellbeing,” says Dr Ross Iles, a co-author of the study. “Our next steps are to find out from drivers themselves how best to tackle to the health problems they face, and then to work with industry to develop programs to improve health.”
According to Ross, the findings of the report support the continued focus on road safety research to reduce the number of fatalities and traumatic injuries in truck drivers, but also highlights the need for greater preventative effort to improve health, reduce the burden of chronic disease and musculoskeletal conditions, as well as a focus on rehabilitation and effective treatment of drivers to reduce morbidity.
The findings provide further insight into some specific health conditions in some sub‑groups of drivers (for example neurological conditions in older drivers) and identify the geographic regions in which preventive and rehabilitation interventions are most likely to have a positive impact.
“Understanding the health and wellbeing of people employed in the transport industry is critical to ensuring the most effective and efficient allocation of resources to prevention and rehabilitation efforts,” says Ross.
- There were 120,742 accepted compensation claims for work-related injury and illness in truck drivers between 2004 and 2015.
- These injuries and diseases resulted in the loss of 1,071,230 weeks of working time, or a total of 22,317 years of productive working time loss.
- There were 545 compensated fatalities among truck drivers over this 12 year time period. Truck drivers had a 13 fold higher risk of dying at work than other Australian workers. More than three quarters of work-related deaths in truck drivers were due to vehicle crashes.
- Vehicle crashes accounted for 17 per cent of the total working time lost to injury and disease in truck drivers. The remaining 83 per cent arose from injury and disease caused by musculoskeletal and psychological stress, falls, slips and trips and other causes.
- Drivers over 65 years were at the highest risk of work-related injury and disease, and took much longer off work than younger drivers when injured.
- The most common type of injury in truck drivers was musculoskeletal injury (such as back pain). Drivers with these injuries took 5 weeks off work.
- Mental health conditions were less common, but drivers with such conditions took more than 10 weeks off work.
- Twenty-four suburbs, towns and regional areas on the outskirts of major cities, and on the border between Victoria and New South Wales, recorded more than twice the average rate of work‑related injury and disease in truck drivers.