As scores of truck drivers continue against all odds to ply the roads to deliver essential goods across the country, it is important not only to #ThankOurTruckers but also to bring notice to their health and safety in these testing times.
The novel Coronavirus has globally affected scores of people of all age groups and health conditions but it has been reported widely that it is especially lethal for those who belong to older age groups and/or with existing health conditions such as diabetes, respiratory issues, obesity and heart disease. It is here that the risks for truck drivers becomes a cause for concern. Many targeted studies focusing on truck drivers have found that a large proportion of them suffer from some of the existing health conditions mentioned above.
For example, in a month long research study on driver health conducted by Kantar IMRD and Castrol India in 2018 involving 1000 truck drivers, it was found that more than half of the drivers were having health issues such as obesity, insomnia, stress and breathlessness. In another research paper published in 2019 on the morbidity profile of truck drivers in South India involving 175 truck drivers, the authors report 50% of drivers being overweight, 41% having hypertension and 12% suffering from diabetes.
These statistics reveal a distressing truth, the causes of which become clear when we delve a little deeper into the ground realities facing the trucking industry. Some of the key issues faced by truck drivers include:
- >Long hours on the road to meet pressing delivery schedules with inadequate rest and sleep.
- >Lack of awareness on healthy lifestyle practices such as regular exercise, adequate rest and sleep and healthy diet.
- >Lack of access to healthy food and resting options along highways,
- >High prevalence of smoking and drinking and lack of awareness of their harmful effects.
In the present situation therefore, truck drivers are not only having an increased risk of exposure to the Coronavirus but are also at a high risk of life threatening illness if infected, because of their existing health conditions. Nonetheless, the current situation presents an opportunity for the trucking industry stakeholders to work together to develop and implement a long term strategy to address the health issues of truck drivers, which can hold them in good stead in the future.
Some ideas in this regard are presented below.
- >The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in collaboration with the trucking industry associations such as All India Transporters Welfare Association (AITWA) and the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC): Workshops, health camps etc to create awareness among the driver community on the importance of healthy lifestyle practices.
- >The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) in collaboration with other stakeholders (fuel retailers, etc): Cohesive strategy to provide healthy food options for truck drivers along national highways.
- >Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH): Policy regulations on continuous driving hours, daily limits on driving hours, and mandatory rest and sleep hours. Strict enforcement of these policies on the ground through collaboration with concessionaires and/or State police departments.
In addition to the above ideas, technology companies such as Intents Mobi can play an important role in promoting driver health and wellness. One of the solutions that we are currently working on is a dedicated app for truck drivers, which can serve as an information sharing platform for the driver community on locations of healthy food options, places to be avoided (which may pose a health or safety risk), alerts (for rest/sleep) and tips for health living, among other things.
As we #ThankOurTruckers during these unprecedented times, we look forward to supporting efforts towards a positive impact on driver health and wellness going forward, which will undoubtedly have a force multiplier effect on our trucking industry.