Fighting for fitter truck drivers

Helping to keep our nation's truck drivers happy and healthy is all part of a new pilot program being rolled out by Healthy Heads in Trucks and Sheds

Details of a Monash University study released in November estimate 6067 truck drivers will die and $2.6 billion of productivity could be lost over the next 10 years if the current status quo in the industry remains.

The Monash University report, published in The Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation estimates inaction could cost about $485 million in healthcare costs and 21,173 lost years of life due to work-related diseases or injury among truck drivers.

The last full report released in 2020 found the transport industry contributed an estimated 7.4 per cent ($122.3 billion) of gross domestic product (GDP) to Australia’s economy in 2015-16 and employed about 380,000 workers.

The latest research project estimated the work-related mortality burden among truck drivers, using modelling to simulate the Australian male working-age population (aged 15-65) from 2021-2030.

Researchers used data from the Driving Health study and other published sources to estimate work-related mortality and associated productivity loss, hospital and medication costs. All outcomes were discounted by five per cent per annum.

Modelling showed that reducing the health burden by two per cent could result in savings of $10 million in healthcare costs and $53 million in lost productivity.

“Despite the importance of the transport and logistics industry to the Australian economy, workers are at a greater risk of work-related injury or disease relative to other industries,” the researchers found.

“Our analyses highlight the health and economic consequences of poor driver health over the forthcoming decade and highlight the need for interventions to reduce the burden of work-related injury or disease for truck drivers and other transport workers.”

Program Lead Associate Professor Ross Iles said Driving Health had earlier found that the health and wellbeing of truck drivers in general was poor, and a system-wide effort was needed from the transport industry to help drivers be healthy and stay at work.

“What this part of the project adds is a clear economic argument for supporting driver health and wellbeing,” he said.

“If the current state continues, there will be an enormous cost, not only for the individuals concerned, but also for the Australian economy.”

“The Driving Health project found there is no easy fix, but this analysis shows that even a small improvement in driver health will lead to savings of tens of millions of dollars.”

Previous research has established that transport and logistics workers have worse health outcomes than those in other industries, especially musculoskeletal and trauma-related injuries.

They also have a high prevalence of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and hypertension, which has been attributed to long working hours, poor access to healthcare, exposure to physical and mental stress and other behaviours and occupational characteristics which contribute to poor health.

The new paper found that a collective national effort was required to improve the health and wellbeing of Australian truck drivers to reduce the burden of work-related injury or disease for truck drivers and other transport workers.

“To date, there are limited studies exploring the long-term economic burden attributed to poor health among transport workers, and a clear economic argument for improving driver health would provide a compelling case for a collective effort across industry,” the researchers found.

Study co-author Dr Caryn Van Vreden said there were some efforts underway, but they were hampered by lack of funding and policy change from the government.

“Despite efforts to improve driver health by the industry, greater input from government and regulators is needed. This includes increases in funding and changes in policy to effect lasting change,” she said.

Driving Health is a multi-stage project aiming to profile the health and wellbeing of Australian truck drivers and to develop ready-to-implement strategies to help drivers to be healthy and stay healthy at work. To date the project has explored the health burden, as well as trends in health service usage attributed to truck drivers and other transport workers in Australia.

Poached eggs, spinach, tomato and toast is a hit

The challenge of helping truck drivers to find better nutrition is at the heart of a pilot program being championed by the Healthy Heads in Trucks & Sheds Foundation (HHTS) that launched in September of this year.

The Nutrition Pilot Program is endeavouring to educate, raise awareness and encourage longer-term healthy eating among truck driver and was developed in partnership with Nutrition Australia.

It came in response to poor health outcomes among drivers, in particular, Monash University data that highlighted that 70 per cent of drivers surveyed did not meet the guidelines for a healthy and balanced diet.

The pilot program focuses on heavy vehicle drivers. It was originally scheduled to finish at the end of 2022, but its successful uptake has seen the pilot extended into the new year.

HHTS Industry Relations and Program Management director Melissa Weller says it’s all about providing the tools for drivers to use every day.

Weller says since the launch more than 1750 healthier choice meals have already been sold to drivers, with a subsidised breakfast of $4.90 poached eggs on toast with spinach and tomato proving a popular hit among the driver’s social media pages too.

She says another plus with the popularity of this sort of meal is that drivers are ordering it, then taking a break in the truckies lounge to sit down and eat it freshly cooked, where they have access to further information if they want it, but also just some time to refresh and catch their breath before jumping back in the cab.

The aim of the program is to raise awareness about healthier food choices and the benefits they can have on both physical and mental health outcomes, without going over the top. There are hints, advice and information available for drivers, and work sites, on the Healthy Heads app that are downloadable and shareable – focused on small changes over a long time.

To accompany the health information, 29 bp service centres across Australia are offering freshly cooked healthier meals, 24 hours a day, with a menu that has had input from Nutrition Australia and attains the green tick of health.

Nutrition Australia CEO Lucinda Hancock said good food could help with both physical and mental health.

“More than three million Australians are living with anxiety or depression,” Hancock says. “Research shows that by changing the food we eat, we can have a significant positive impact on our mood and mental health.

“The pilot aims to increase the driver’s awareness of healthy eating and influence their eating behaviours more broadly. By making small changes to what we eat on a day-to-day basis, we can reap many positive health benefits.”

Weller says the long-term goal is to roll out a national program that spans across the broader logistics industry, including warehousing and distribution centres where the groups could continue to share educational information, but also, have some influence on-site canteen suppliers and increase access to healthier foods. 

Information on participating service stations and health resources can be found at where you can download the Healthy Heads app.


As at November 28 – participating service stations were:

New South Wales

bp Beresfield, bp Eastern Creek,
bp Jerilderie, bp Marulan Northbound, bp Marulan Southbound,
bp Nambucca Heads, bp Parkes,
bp North Albury, bp Potts Hill.

Northern Territory

bp Darwin.


bp Aratula, bp Archerfield,
bp Goondiwindi, bp Paget,
bp Port of Brisbane,
bp Toowoomba Westbound,
bp Townsville.

South Australia

bp Port Augusta, bp Wingfield.


bp Dandenong, bp Energy,
bp Laverton North, bp Northpoint,
bp Outbound Somerton,
bp Rockbank Inbound,
bp Rockbank Outbound, bp Truganina.

Western Australia

bp Kewdale, bp Muchea.

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