Haulage drivers are essential workers in these times of the pandemic, but those considering a C1 driving licence might wonder about the problems facing them, according to Lynn Holdsworth and Sheena Johnson, who head the AHPD (Age, Health, and Professional Drivers) organisation. Sheena Johnson serves as a Senior Lecturer in Organisational Psychology, and Lynn Holdsworth is the Lead and Co-ordinator in Network Research for AHPD.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the transport and logistics sector was long struggling with staffing, given its large portion of ageing workers, most of whom were due to retire within a short time. The sector also faced a shortage of young drivers willing to join the industry.
Over the years, AHPD Network has been stressing the vitality of safeguarding the health and affairs of the ageing population of the driver labour force, which is often at risk of various health conditions associated with their work.
As such, it isn’t surprising that the COVID-19 has created a storm in an already ailing industry. In respect to this, we asked AHPD members to talk to us about the situation in this industry and how it is responding to the pandemic.
Haulage firms have faced different challenges during the pandemic. Firms that deal in food distribution have continued to see more activity, just like those that deal with online deliveries. On the other hand, some firms have seen a massive drop in the number of their activities, for instance, those making deliveries to restaurants, pubs, and shops.
While some firms still manage to pay full wages to their employees who have no work now or are benefiting from the government furlough scheme, some only manage to offer statutory sick pay, which may have pushed individuals to work while unwell for the money.
Meanwhile, following the COVID-19 pandemic, some changes in the transport and logistics sector have been effected to improve the flow of goods. Among them is the easing of driver hours for them to work longer hours and easing the driver training requirements as well. While these changes are set to help keep goods moving, they are likely to be a recipe for health and safety conditions for drivers, such as driving while tired and having little rest time.
Firms have, therefore, been forced to strike a balance between moving goods and protecting their drivers, while sticking to the stipulated guidelines. However, some drivers have had concerns that some firms are exploiting the easing of the driver hours for non-essential goods delivery.
The current uncertainty and risk to drivers are made even more apparent by the fact that most HGV drivers average 57 years, while 13% of these drivers are aged 60 and above. Professional drivers are known to comprise an older and possibly less healthy labour force owing to some health risks associated with their job.
Some of these health risks include obesity, a poor diet, lack of exercise, exposure to stressful thoughts, lack of quality sleep, and disturbances. Going by the risks that COVID-19 poses to the older folks and individuals with pre-existing health conditions, there have been genuine concerns around the health and well-being of professional haulage drivers during this pandemic.
Some reports have also emerged indicating that drivers are being deprived the right to use toilets and cleaning facilities at the various premises they make deliveries due to COVID-19 concerns. Ironically, drivers should have easy access to such facilities to reduce the chances of contracting and transmitting the virus.