A Loughborough University led study is helping lorry drivers get fit and healthy by encouraging higher levels of physical activity and a healthier diet that fits in with their busy work schedule.
Lorry drivers are exposed to a number of health risks which can be associated with doing their job, these include long periods of sitting down and long, variable, working hours. Pressured delivery times and being on the road for long periods can add psychological stress and sleep deprivation.
A lorry driver's restricted working environment provides little opportunities for a healthy, balanced lifestyle. As a result, they can exhibit higher than average rates of obesity, obesity-related co-morbidities such as diabetes and high blood pressure, and have a significantly reduced life expectancy in comparison to other industry jobs.
Researchers led by Loughborough’s Dr Stacy Clemes, in partnership with the University of Leicester and University of York, have teamed up with DHL to test the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the research team’s ‘Structured Health Intervention For Truckers’ (known as the SHIFT programme).
The aim of the SHIFT programme is to promote positive behavioural changes in terms of increased physical activity and a healthier diet. The study is being funded by the National Institute for Health Research.
The average age of lorry drivers is 53 and previous research by the same team indicates that 84% of them were overweight or obese compared to 75% of men the same age as the national average.
Dr Clemes said: “There are currently very few resources available to tackle health inequalities in the transport sector. If successful, the SHIFT programme could be utilised across the transport sector, both nationally and internationally. This could have a long-term impact on professional drivers’ health and wellbeing.”
Researchers will recruit over 300 lorry drivers to the SHIFT study and their depots will be allocated to either take part in the programme or continue their usual work routines. The programme will begin with a 6 hour educational session where drivers taking part in the trial will be given a physical activity tracker and the necessary equipment to help keep active in their cab when they are not driving. They will also be given specific advice relating to health issues that are associated with becoming a lorry driver and additional materials on how to make healthier living choices.
Data that will be monitored on the fitness tracker include the number of steps made a day, amount of sleep, blood pressure and cholesterol. This will be measured at the start of the programme and at s6 and 12 months to see if the programme is helping drivers improve their overall health. Researchers will also consider the impact of the programme on their mental health and quality of life.
Kevin Richardson, Chief Executive, CILT UK said: “Driver welfare and specifically health and wellbeing is a key issue for both existing drivers and the attractiveness of the profession for potential employees. CILT UK believe that the link between academic research and business engagement has the potential to create real impact within the transport sector. We support this important work into an area of knowledge that is increasingly becoming recognised as crucial by transport operators. We believe that the SHIFT programme can produce meaningful outputs that can improve standards within the profession.”
Phil Roe, Managing Director, DHL added: “We are pleased to be supporting the SHIFT programme and playing a role in this important initiative which aims to make commercial driving both healthier and more enjoyable.”