Although haulage drivers have been classified as essential workers during this period, very few people have been talking about the impact this pandemic has had on their lives. Shenna Johnson and Lynn Holdsworth, the leaders of the Age, Health and Professional Drivers’ (AHPD) network, have spoken out about this.
Prior to the crisis caused by the coronavirus, there were already many challenges in the transport and logistics sector. Many older workers were reaching the age of retirement, and not many young workers were choosing to enter this industry or take HGV training courses. Because of this, there were many staffing challenges.
The AHPD network has also been placing more focus on how important it is to consider the health of the driving workforce, especially as they age. Because of the type of work that they do, they are exposed to many health risks.
When you take all this into consideration, it’s easy to see why the current pandemic has placed such a strain on the industry. Considering this, we spoke to members of the AHPD and asked them to share their experiences with us.
The Impact on the Industry
There are a number of ways in which haulage companies have been impacted by the pandemic. There’s been an increased demand for food distribution, and there has also been a surge in online orders. With that said, there are also employees that have lost most of their work. As an example, workers that once brought shipments to restaurants, pubs, and shops now have very little to do.
There are companies that have continued to pay wages to individuals that no longer have to work. Some businesses have also utilised the furlough scheme offered by the government. However, there are also companies that haven’t provided more than sick pay. Because of this, there are workers that may have felt pressured to work while sick for the sake of their finances.
The transport and logistics industry has also seen a number of changes because of the pandemic. These changes have been necessary to ensure that the flow of goods is not interrupted. Driver training requirements have been relaxed. Restrictions on driver hours have also changed, which means drivers can now work for more hours each week. Although these changes have ensured that good can continue to move, they are also likely to have consequences, especially when considering the safety and well-being of drivers. Drivers may not be able to get enough rest. It’s possible that many workers are driving while very tired.
Because of this, companies have tried to find ways to keep their drivers safe while continuing to move goods. It can be challenging to do this while staying within the current guidelines. There are drivers who believe that there are companies that are exploiting the relaxation of restrictions so that non-essential goods can be delivered.
The Impact on Drivers
When looking at the various risks that drivers are facing, it’s important to remember that on average, HGV drivers are 57 years old. 13% of drivers are over the age of 60. Because drivers are older, COVID-19 posts a greater risk to them. The workforce also has a number of other health risks that are linked to the job.
Some of these risks include low exercise levels, which can lead to obesity. Drivers may be sleep-deprived, and they face a great deal of stress on the job. When you look at the health concerns of drivers as well as their high average age, it’s easy to see why COVID-19 is such a cause for concern.
According to some reports, drivers have not been able to wash their hands or use the toilet when delivering goods to facilities. This means that the risks that drivers are facing are increased even more.