The great Mahatma Ghandi once stated that, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated.” And so it is with our great Aussie Road Warriors, the men and women who from their trucks form the lifeblood of the corporate community. As these selfless, hard working truck drivers traverse this great land, they are often made to endure sub-standard facilities in which to rest, revive and restore.
Looking closely at the road user facilities that our drivers are expected to share, truck stops in particular can be dreadful environments, some so tawdry that you wouldn’t want to take a break: you’d rather push on and risk your health in other ways. Colourful signage is forever present, encouraging drivers to indulge in so-called energy boosting products. It’s an interesting and complex scenario that the majority of food and fluid products served in these facilities is advertised as a source of ‘fuel’ for a driver when in fact they are more a source of ‘fatigue.’
Let’s take nutrition options in Roadhouses and large Service Stations for example. It would seem upon entering that there are very few, if any, healthy, energy boosting choices to be made.
Drivers first need to be educated on what to look for regarding fatigue reducing options, then en-masse start requesting them. If every driver requested wholemeal bread, the Roadhouse owner would have to start providing it. If more drivers took five minutes to have a healthy sandwich made up, the Service Station owner would have to prepare it. That’s right, it will be the power of the people that changes the face of what’s served in these facilities. It doesn’t mean the dim sims and potato cakes won’t be there, it simply means that you don’t have to order them.
It is pleasing to see more Truck Stops providing spaces purely designed for truck drivers. On the whole, though, there are too many facilities with filthy toilets and shower units, surrounded by uninspiring décor. How can this attract drivers to our industry and what does it tell us about the regard that we are showing current drivers? If you talk to any major fleet operator about the key challenges facing them today, you will hear about driver retention, ageing workforce and perhaps lack of female participation in our industry; well it’s no wonder when you look at the images that come to mind when we think about trucking in Australia.
Truck driving is an extremely challenging occupation when it comes to maintaining a high level of physical health. It is therefore time for our Government and Logistics bodies to ramp up urgency to create vibrant spaces at Truck Stops where drivers can exercise, stretch, relax and unwind. This is more than just about their health and wellness, it’s about improving safety for all road users. Well-rested, fit drivers are safer drivers. For us to consider: from a society point of view, we seem to have a fairly dim view of truck drivers, often regarding them as an unwelcomed necessity on our roads. Our Government could instigate an initiative where all Learner Drivers must spend an hour in a prime mover in order to gain insight into how trucks behave, how much longer they take to decrease speed and how less nimble they are than a car. This could be of huge benefit to all road users.
Food for thought, till next time.
Written by Matthew Beechey, Director of R&R Corporate Health and acclaimed industry health and wellbeing expert.