Many stereotypes about drivers are now, thankfully, starting to change. There is, however, one stereotype that is very much staying put. That’s the stereotype about drivers being overweight and hence unfit. Sadly, this stereotype is somewhat based on truth. The good news is that fleet managers can address this.

Understand the basics of health

The three pillars of physical health are sleep, diet (including hydration) and exercise. It’s also important to avoid bad habits such as smoking. These also provide the foundation for mental health.

On their own, however, they are not necessarily sufficient to ensure positive mental health. In fact, people in a job like driving will almost certainly need to take extra steps to ensure their mental welfare. They may not, however, realize this themselves and hence may need guidance from management.

The importance of time

Taking care of your health, physical or mental, requires time. This means that any actions you take to promote your drivers’ health will only have any real-world impact if you make sure your drivers have enough time to implement them. In other words, the onus is very much on you to get on top of your planning and scheduling.

In particular, you need to allow for the weather and road conditions (these can vary widely according to the time of year. Right now, you also need to allow for issues relating to Brexit and COVID19. These will hopefully be cleared up sooner rather than later. For the present, however, they can lead to considerable delays.

Likewise, you need to make it clear to drivers that they must call in sick if they are unwell. It may be inconvenient having drivers call off shifts but you need to put safety first. You also need to have a plan in place for dealing with drivers becoming unwell when they are out on the road.

Equipping your drivers

Andrea Easton, Head of Finance and Operations at Walker Movements; international leaders within the truck industry, contributed, “As a rule of thumb, it is your responsibility to provide any equipment required for the job. It may be part of the driver’s duties to collect that equipment but they should not have to pay for it. They can be required to pay for personal items. It may, however, be in your best interests to pay for, or at least subsidize, equipment that promotes health.”

At a minimum, keeping your drivers healthy should reduce the number of sick days they need to take. It will also help to reduce incidents or accidents caused by drivers working when they are not at their best. They may not, technically, be sick but they are not driving as well as they would if they felt at their best.

At best, showing that you are doing more than just paying lip service to drivers’ welfare can help to make you a desirable employer. This is useful at any time. Right now, it may be vital to getting any staff at all since HGV drivers are currently in huge demand.

The government is trying to address the shortage but, as always, training drivers takes time. Also, new drivers, by definition, are not going to have the same experience as drivers who’ve been working for a while. They may therefore not be the best choices for the more challenging jobs.

Equipment you could invest in

Start with basic comfort. For example, provide drivers with a mini-vacuum-cleaner so they can keep their cab clean. Provide air fresheners to tame odours. Remember drivers often keep their windows up to avoid debris being blown into their eyes. Offer driver’s seat pads and covers for the steering wheel and their seatbelt.

Make sure they have space for their own belongings especially on longer trips. Think about how they will eat and drink. Ideally, provide them with facilities for basic cooking and making hot drinks as well as a place to store food and drinks safely. Then also try to plan their routes so that they can get proper cooked meals.

Keep them connected. Ideally, that will mean a radio, a proper HGV-specific GPS, a mobile phone and a mobile WiFi device (MiFi). If drivers are using their own mobiles they make sure that they can easily bill for work calls. You might also want to provide a tablet, especially if you’re asking drivers to input data via apps. The larger screens really do make a difference to the user experience.

These days, sadly, it’s highly advisable to invest in security cameras. These can do a lot for your insurance and your drivers’ mental health. Firstly, they help to deter scammers. Secondly, they help to ensure that drivers are not blamed for legitimate accidents other people caused.

Educating your drivers

At a high level, make sure that you provide information about how drivers can look after themselves while out on the road. These days, it’s highly likely that drivers know the theory of looking after themselves. They may not, however, have worked out how to make that theory work in practice, not even if they’re experienced.

This means that you should tailor any health information to the realities of their job. For example, you could give recommendations on what kinds of sleep masks and earplugs work most effectively and comfortably. You could suggest healthy snacks which can be eaten conveniently on the move and recommend water bottles which can be used with one hand.

Make sure that drivers know how to set up their seats so that they are working ergonomically. Check that they know about the importance of sun-protection especially for their eyes. Also, provide tips on how they can incorporate exercise into their journey. For example, you could make drivers aware that resistance bands can be an effective (and portable) alternative to weights.

You might also want to offer drivers options for taking care of their mental health. Ideally, you would offer a menu of options and allow drivers to choose what works best for them. For example, some drivers might very much appreciate the support of mindfulness/meditation apps while others might prefer straightforward entertainment.

By Lisa Baker, Senior Editor

Senior Editor Lisa Baker is the owner of Need to See it Publishing Group, providing contract news for business and news sites across the UK. Lisa is an experienced HR writer and commentator, editing HR publications for more than 5 years.