At the heart of long haul

An increasing number of industry partners are coming out in support of the health and well-being of South African truck drivers. Shell Rimula has added its voice. It believes that education and health of truck drivers are vitally important in the prevention of road accidents.

“As Shell Rimula ensures the proper operating condition of an engine, the company believes that the same ethos should be encouraged for truck drivers, to ensure that the person behind the wheel is in optimal condition to perform their job to the best of their abilities,” says the company.

“Not all truck drivers are subjected to the same daily stresses and occupational challenges. However, driving a truck rates as one of the most dangerous and stressful jobs in the world, and the lifestyle of professional drivers has an impact on their performance,” the company claims.

Many truck drivers are so pressured into meeting stringent time constraints, that they become susceptible to a number of health issues. Factors that diminish the health of drivers include:

Lack of exercise
According to research by Time magazine, experts have indicated that sedentary behaviour, such as sitting all day, presents a higher risk factor for earlier death.

Diet, obesity, and diabetes
It is incredibly difficult to embrace healthy eating when on the road, and it’s no wonder many truckers simply rely on fast food and sugary energy drinks in order to remain “productive”. Unfortunately, these unhealthy eating habits can have drastic consequences.

A diet high in sugar and carbohydrates can result in a number of health conditions, including obesity and the silent killer – diabetes. Consuming less processed food and increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables can assist in weight loss and boost the immune system.

Being away from home for long periods of time contributes to the stress of a truck driver.

Furthermore, the time constraints placed on drivers leads to additional stress, as do dispatchers, equipment malfunction, traffic jams, inconsiderate drivers, and general personal issues.

High blood pressure – or hypertension – can cause serious health issues such heart disease and strokes. It is a major factor affecting commercial truck drivers. Corporate Wellness Magazine in the United States (US) reports that 87 percent of truckers in the US have hypertension or pre-hypertension, in addition to a 50-percent higher rate of diabetes than the general population.

HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases have always been a topic of discussion in the overall health of truck drivers. As they are often away from home for long periods, some drivers engage in acts with sex workers and are often unknowingly infected with HIV.

Despite the availability of wellness centres in truck stops along the highways, truck drivers face stigma-related challenges with regard to testing for HIV and personal acknowledgement of their involvement in the sex trade.

Truck drivers face distinct challenges with regard to smoking.  Besides the risk of lung cancer, smokers are also at a higher risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, chronic lung diseases including emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, as well as less life-threatening, but incurable, conditions like asthma.

Exhaustion and fatigue play a major factor in the risk of accidents. Although the basic employment act highlights suitable working hours, many drivers are under pressure from their employers to work longer hours, while some choose to ignore suitable working hours in order to make more money. As a result, these drivers become a danger to themselves to other motorists on the road.

“Modern driver training extends beyond simply training drivers on how to ensure correct driving patterns and behaviour, and now includes lifestyle advice. With a number of initiatives currently in the country, drivers should take action and adopt a healthier lifestyle. It will be of benefit to their job and will improve their quality of life,” the company concludes .

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Focus on Transport

FOCUS on Transport and Logistics is one of the oldest and most respected transport and logistics publications in southern Africa.
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