Haulage drivers perform an essential role in our economy, keeping supply chains moving and goods arriving on time. However, a lack of safe, secure roadside facilities is causing well-catalogued problems for the haulage industry in terms of driver welfare and wellbeing. Here, we look at the impact of inadequate overnight haulage facilities on drivers and how the insurance industry can offer help and assistance.
In early February 2023, the RHA (Road Haulage Association), reported that nationally there is an estimated 11,000 shortage of lorry parking spaces1, saying: “The current provision of safe, secure parking and welfare facilities available to drivers is inadequate, with many forced to take their rest periods in their vehicles at the side of the road, with no access to hygiene facilities.” Furthermore, on 28th February 2023, the RHA referred to the state of lorry parking facilities as ‘a national disgrace’, saying ‘nowhere else in western Europe is there such ramshackle, unsafe and unhygienic provision for the basic human needs of lorry drivers’. Their comments are echoed by David Wells2 Chief Executive of trade association, Logistics UK, formerly known as the Freight Transport Association, who said: “More than 1,400 drivers are unable to find a safe and secure place to take their mandated overnight rest”, pointing out that recruitment issues could largely be attributed to the poor image of the industry and the way outsiders view the way it treats its staff. He also said: “While the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states that workers must have access to clean and secure bathrooms and, where necessary, showers and changing facilities, this is still far from the standard provision offered to HGV drivers” and called for ‘more to be done to support them while undertaking their vital work’. These important insights, highlight the importance of driver wellbeing and that the situation is making recruitment and retention of drivers more difficult. There is clearly a requirement for more lorry and coach parking, improved driver facilities and greater understanding of driver wellbeing.
While investment in the road network tends to sit near the top of the transport industry’s agenda, the related issue of providing decent facilities for the nation’s many HGV drivers tends to receive less attention. On this theme, Transport Focus, the independent watchdog for transport users, held a special event on 26th January 2023, dedicated to the issue of driver facilities on the strategic road network, motorways and major ‘A’ roads3. The keynote speaker was Roads Minister, Richard Holden MP, who spoke of the Government’s £100m funding pot announced in November 2022, set aside to fund improved and safer rest areas and roadside facilities, better security, showers and eating facilities. On 24th November 2022,4 when the funding was announced, Richard Holden had commented: “The industry is responsible for providing roadside parking and welfare facilities for hauliers, and the department is committed to help the sector achieve the government’s long-term objectives of improving driver welfare, boosting drivers’ security, and safeguarding road safety.
Building a better infrastructure for haulage drivers, with safe, secure, hygienic facilities is a long term project and will clearly take time, despite funding being in place. In the meantime, the situation carries on for drivers and, not surprisingly, is having a negative impact on driver health and wellbeing. Research undertaken by Employ Recruitment and published on 16th March 20225 revealed shocking stats, highlighting the poor conditions affecting drivers’ health. The study considered HGV driving not to be conducive to a healthy lifestyle due to shift work, sleep issues, isolation, sedentary nature, unhealthy diet and lack of opportunity to exercise. It found that 27% of drivers surveyed felt stressed and almost a quarter experienced loneliness. This echoes the findings of research published in the British Medical Journal in 20197, which states that HGV driving is considered one of the most hazardous occupations, with higher than-average rates of obesity and related conditions, in comparison to other occupational groups. It found their working environments were not conducive to a healthy lifestyle, yet there had been limited attention to health promotion efforts.
Mental health issues
According to HGVT8, the UK’s largest provider of LGV/HGV training, although one in four truck drivers will have mental health issues at some point in a year, talking about it is considered taboo among drivers. They believe Mind’s figures of 30 percent of work-related illness in the transport and logistics industry being due to stress, depression and anxiety may well be higher, as 95% of people calling in sick don’t reveal the real reason for their absence. They say that of 22% of workers diagnosed with mental illness, less than half have reported it to their supervisor or manager. Given the high numbers of drivers in the UK, they suggest this number could be higher, as they believe drivers prefer to keep it in and try to deal with it, rather than seeking professional help or treatment.
HGVT says the transport and logistics industry cannot afford to ignore the state of the mental health amongst drivers any longer, as the cost of this is severe, both humanly and financially, quoting between £70- 100 billion lost each year due to employees taking extended sick leaves because of mental health issues. “Professional truck drivers (TDs) are exposed to stressful working (and living) conditions and are vulnerable. They report physical and mental health problems and psychological distress more frequently than the general population and their problems can affect safety on the roads”. HGVT believes an essential solution is for employers to give their employees training and awareness on mental health issues: when people know what signs and symptoms they should look out for, they can quickly spot the signs in themselves and others and get help at the right time.
RHA supported Mental Health Awareness Week 20229 (promoted by the Mental Health Foundation) in which the theme was loneliness, suggesting that employers of HGV drivers should:
- Have an open door policy – to raise the levels of awareness and confidence so drivers and other employees can talk about issues around all aspects of health and wellbeing (both physical, emotional, financial and social)
- Talk about mental health – and offer confidential self-referral pathways so drivers can seek mental health support at any time of the day or night. Encourage a storytelling approach to tackle the stigma and encourage others to seek help
- Look at the challenges facing truck drivers, including poor roadside facilities – and ask drivers to be involved in giving feedback to shape the way the funding will be used - so they feel their needs are being considered
- Promote healthy habits for drivers, including diet, exercise and rest - and explain the importance of wellbeing to reduce the level of risk for individual drivers and other road users
- Give drivers access to help and advice – and explain why they should interact with the support available to support their own wellbeing
A key problem is clearly down to a lack of safe, secure, hygienic roadside facilities for haulage drivers, a situation that calls for major investment and building work. While funding is available, this is a long term issue that will take considerable time to remedy. In the short term, there could be more that haulage employers can do to assist drivers and this is where we can help. PIB believe there is a direct link between company performance and employee engagement, with engaged employees enjoying a range of benefits that contributes towards their wellbeing, self-esteem and health. We can arrange an Employee Benefits package for your company that provides your drivers with the support they require, that includes education and awareness training about the importance of good nutrition, exercise and sleep, confidential mental health support, welfare programmes and private medical cover, giving your drivers immediate access to appropriate health professionals.
With drivers receiving the correct level of help, advice and support, wellbeing is enhanced, leading to better performance, increased productivity and less absenteeism, all helping to lower your company risk profile. As well as improving life on the road for your drivers, we’re helping to create a better business proposition, based on lowering your risk, which may well have cost benefits for your overall insurance. It’s a question of Employee Benefits, Risk Management and Insurance Broking all working together, which is what we offer at PIB. Our ability to provide haulage sector expertise, a collaborative culture, local presence and client-focused approach differentiates us in the market, enabling us to meet your specific requirements with the level of specialisation you require. To discuss how we can start to make a difference for your drivers and your business, get in touch.