This is a subject I reckon I am going to return to again and again, treating truck drivers like human beings. A report from QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation shows how an improvement in truck driver health has been achieved by a workplace intervention program. After the program there was a 15 per cent drop in drivers self-reporting their body mass index (BMI) as obese. These truckies are eating healthier, exercising more and losing weight.
Truckies had been targeted by the QUT team leader, Dr Marguerite Sendall, as they are regarded as having the kind of lifestyle where they are at a higher risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Fatigue from long working hours and the sedentary nature of the job mean drivers are regarded as taking them into the high risk category.
The initiative was funded by the Queensland Government’s Healthier Happier.Workplaces initiative and the project was developed by QUT to investigate the effectiveness of workplace-based nutrition and physical activity health promotion programs for truckies in south-east Queensland.
The very nature of the mobile workplace and the lack of good food on the road made getting the message out to drivers and getting them to act on the advice particularly problematic. The team looked at the nature of the workplace and developed specific strategies.
The kind of thing tried included offering healthy options in vending machines at work. Employers also agreed to supply free fruit to drivers and promote the 10,000 steps workplace challenge among the workforce.
Over the two-year project, five transport companies employing between 20 and 200 truck drivers were involved. Each tried four or five different strategies. Each was tailored to specifically to the real world situation for the truckies involved.
“What workplaces need to be doing is responding proactively to the barriers in each individual workplace,” said Marguerite. “For example providing microwaves and small fridges, especially for line haul drivers.”
At the end of the day, both drivers and management were happy. There were also positive health outcomes for the drivers. 18 per cent more of the truckies said they were making lifestyle changes to improve their health, 20 per cent pre-intervention rose to 38 per cent post-intervention.
More drivers said their health was ‘good’ or ‘excellent’. They had also learned about good nutrition and increased their intake of fruit and vegetables.
This is the kind of great result which can be achieved when trucking companies show they do care about their drivers. Most of the time truckies feel ignored, marginalised and unloved. Real initiatives, where changes are customised to take into account the weird lifestyle imposed on the average truckie, can have a real effect.
So, go on trucking industry, show your drivers some love!