HGV drivers are the lifeblood of the UK industry – there are no two ways about it. And with drivers being in such shortage, maintaining a strong and healthy workforce to drive the haulage industry is essential to success. But how can an employer ensure that their drivers are healthy, happy and able to do the best job they can? For most, it means being more aware of what they can do to support the physical and mental health of their drivers.
Driving a HGV is a physically demanding job – even though it may look like you’re just sitting in a chair all day. Back problems are one of the most common issues – caused by a combination of long hours sitting in damaging spinal positions, heavy lifting of cargo and frequent jerking motions. This physical symptom can be as simple as an ache in your spine, to disc dehydration and even vibration damage. Along with spinal and neck problems, HGV drivers can also experience eye issues due to constant strain, particularly if they are predominantly night drivers. There is also the risk of chronic fatigue, which can impact their ability to drive safely.
Physical health is an important responsibility for HGV employers, and a few simple steps can go a long way to ensuring the health of your drivers. Education is vital – not just in how to drive a HGV, but how to do so in a way that won’t cause back problems. Educate on posture, ensure your drivers can take breaks to stretch, and understand the warning signs of the common illness. For businesses employing multiple drivers, you can also partner with a local spinal health practice to deliver regular presentative treatments, which will hugely increase driver satisfaction and health.
One of the lesser known problems comes around mental health. Mental health is a hot topic at the moment, with more and more businesses recognising the need to improve their mental health support network. In particular, HGV driers commonly experience mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and stress, all of which impact their ability to work effectively and safely. Long hours, night shits, traffic, time away from home – all of it can contribute to some significant mental health issues in drivers. Studies conducted by mental health charity MIND have found that 30% of illnesses in the transport and logistics industry are mental health-related (although this is self-reported and may actually be higher). And that really is the issue. The majority of workers in transport and logistics are still male, and men are statistically less likely to seek help for or even admit to suffering mental illness. Up to 95% of men who call in sick because of a mental health problem will lie about the reason, making it much more difficult to deal with. But in order to keep your drivers happy, safe and healthy, your business needs to be offering support.
This is a trickier one, because it is difficult to offer concrete plans for mental health. You can implement ‘mental health days’ as another form of sick day, or offer a confidential counselling service to your employees for those who might need the help. You can also take steps to open a dialogue about mental health, and create a work environment where people feel comfortable enough to disclose any issues they are having. Medical insurance for mental health issues is also an option, giving people the access to free and confidential help if they need it, without having to disclose it.
When it comes to employee health, the best way to view it is holistically. That means seeing the employee as a whole entity, and identifying the issues they may have that could impact your business. By taking a 2 pronged approach to HGV driver health, you can ensure your business retains drivers for longer and sees much higher satisfaction rates. For more information on how you can support your drivers, just get in touch with us today.
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