COVID-19 and the effect on haulage drivers
Haulage drivers are having to keep working during the pandemic, but there has been little talk about how the crisis is affecting them.
Before the current crisis, the sector was facing a struggle to maintain staffing numbers given its high proportion of older workers approaching retirement and the limited numbers of younger drivers entering the industry.
Given this, it is little surprise that the COVID-19 crisis has only exacerbated the crisis.
The current risk and uncertainty to drivers are brought into even sharper focus by the fact that the average age of an HGV driver is 57, while 13% are over 60. Indeed professional drivers are recognised as comprising of an older workforce Given the associated risks of COVID-19 to older individuals and those who have underlying health conditions, there has been obvious concern around the health of professional drivers during the crisis.
There have also been reports of drivers being prevented from using toilets and handwashing facilities at premises they visit due to COVID-19 concerns. Yet it is essential that drivers are able to access these facilities in order to reduce the risk of catching and transmitting the virus.
At the same time, professional drivers are also facing numerous challenges that could negatively impact on their mental health and wellbeing. These range from concerns about contracting COVID-19 through to the extension of working hours, increased work demands, increased isolation on the road, and reduced contact with people due to social distancing measures. Looking ahead, many are anxious about their jobs, incomes, and possible redundancy.
To keep the welfare of their drivers as a priority, employers are recommended to:
– Continue to adhere to existing guidelines in relation to physical health such as ensuring drivers do not work whilst tired and have adequate rest periods.
– Implement, promote and adhere to guidelines linked to COVID-19 such as ensuring drivers observe social distancing rules, and provide hand sanitiser to drivers.
– Place increased importance on having good communication with drivers and listen to their concerns. Drivers can easily feel isolated and cut off from other employees.
– Place increased emphasis on mental wellbeing support. This can include any support already provided by a company and also specific COVID-19 mental health support.
– Recognise that with high numbers of older professional drivers could increase the impact of COVID-19 on the workforce.
– Keep in good contact with furloughed employees. They will still need the support of their employer in these uncertain times even though they are not in the workplace.