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Occupational Safety and Health of Road Transport Drivers

Managing occupational safety and health risks to drivers in the road transport sector can be challenging because drivers work alone, away from their base, and have to contend with traffic danger in addition to many other risks that are difficult for them to control. But risk management measures can be successful if they take account of how the sector operates in practice, as well as the characteristics of drivers themselves and the way they work.

The road transport sector includes:

  • Lorry and van drivers
  • Taxi drivers and chauffeurs
  • Bus and coach drivers
  • Bicycle and motorbike delivery services.

Working in the road transport sector requires high levels of professional skill and competence. For example, drivers of long-distance road haulage vehicles must not only be capable drivers but they must also be able to load and unload, repair technical problems, have certain language skills, carry out basic administration, and act as ‘ambassadors’ for their company in other countries. They have to deliver their goods in time, regardless of weather and road conditions. They may transport dangerous substances or fragile goods that require extra care and responsibility. In the road transport sector, as with any other, it is important to pay attention to working conditions in order to ensure a skilled and motivated workforce.

There are also many business benefits in managing work-related road safety, no matter the size of the business. For example:

  • Fewer days lost due to injury;
  • Fewer vehicles off the road for repair;
  • Fewer missed orders;
  • Less need for investigation and follow up.

Hazards and risks to road transport drivers

A report from the EU-OSHA Risk Observatory, covering the whole of the transport sector, highlights the following hazards, risks and OSH issues for the road transport sector:

road-transport-fatigue

  • The main physical hazards and risks include: exposure to vibrations and prolonged sitting (design of seat, cabin and other equipment); manual handling; exposure to noise – when loading and unloading, when driving trucks (motors, tyres, ventilator, etc.); inhalation of vapours and fumes, handling dangerous substances (exhaust fumes, chemicals on-board, fuel, road dust exposure while loading, unloading and at rest stops, washing and preparing vehicle); climatic conditions (heat, cold, draughts, rain, etc); limited scope for adopting ergonomic work conditions and healthy lifestyles.
  • Fatigue is the most commonly reported health problem in land transport according to Eurofound’s European working conditions survey and national surveys. The road transport sector is highly competitive. Workloads are increasing and drivers face escalating pressures, for example pressures from clients to deliver faster and more cheaply, with issues such as ‘just-in-time management’, increasing traffic, remote monitoring, and many drivers working irregular and long hours.
  • Violence and harassment are on the increase in transport, but go largely unreported. Transport workers often have to act as involuntary intermediates for organisational changes that affect customer service. There is also a lack of reporting procedures, prevention measures and follow-up routines.
  • The transport workforce is ageing at a greater rate than the general working population and shortages of labour supply may occur.
  • Job content changes include: an increasing use of new technology – such as remote planning and monitoring tools, on-board computers for reporting and recording goods deliveries; the need for knowledge of EU road codes and languages. On the other hand the work is more monotonous with fewer opportunities for learning when compared to that of the average working population.

 

 Subsector Some issues highlighted
Public passenger transport
  • Violence and harassment
  • Increased customer contact, incl. translating organisational changes to customers, incl. at ticket counters
  • Lone work
  • Shift work
  • Conflicting demands (attending customers and driving), leading to high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases
  • Needs of an ageing workforce
 Taxi services
  • Violence and assault, lack of reporting systems and training
  • Lone work
  • Working time and shift work issues
  • Workplace design
  • Having to use communication means while driving
Long-distance road haulage
  • Just-in time management leading to high work pressure
  • Client pressures; working on sites of others
  • Increasing use of remote monitoring and complex technology
  • Workplace design
  • Accessibility of facilities and services (hygienic, food and medical)
  • Infectious diseases
  • Violence and assault
  • Lone work
  • Prolonged sitting and exposure to vibration
  • Accident risks, incl. when loading and unloading
  • Needs of an ageing workforce
Dangerous goods transport
  • Accident risks, incl. fire and explosion risks
  • Exposure to dangerous substances, especially when loading and unloading
  • Risks of falls from vehicles and other transport means
Courier services
  • Unforeseeable conditions at customers´ premises, e.g. availability of safe lifting aids
  • Customer expectations and contact
  • Accident risks and climatic conditions, e.g. for bicycle couriers
  • Lifting and handling parcels/goods of unforeseeable sizes and shapes
  • Work organisational issues – work pressure due to short-term changes in tasks, use of remote monitoring/contact systems (drivers receive orders while driving)
All

The specific combination of risks and combination of factors such as ergonomic risks, work organisational stressors, noise, dangerous substances, vibration, unusual working times, working away from home and from a work base, lack of facilities, complex work situation, the need for constant adaptation, and the many structural changes that have occurred in the sector are a particular challenge for monitoring and prevention.

 

More information in the report
OSH in figures: Occupational safety and health in the transport sector — an overview (in English only)

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