COVID-19 and the Effect on Haulage Drivers

Lynn Holdsworth and Sheena Johnson, personalities at the forefront of The Age, Health, and Professional Drivers’ (AHPD) network, recently brought to everyone’s attention the role that Haulage drivers are playing amidst the coronavirus. Lynn Holdsworth is the Network’s Research Lead and Co-ordinator while Sheena Johnson works at the university as a Senior Lecturer in Organisational Psychology.

According to them, haulage drivers, who are holding up the economy during these tough times, are risking their own lives for social good and a sense of normalcy, yet there has been little to no discussion on how they are coping with the crisis. The transport and logistics sector in recent years has been known to be struggling to keep up employee numbers and train new drivers through Surrey and Hampshire HVG Training. This is because the majority of their workers are nearing retirement, yet younger generations seem to be steering away from the industry.

Given the directives by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other health boards, the elderly are more vulnerable to serious COVID-19 infections, hence they should remain isolated and take maximum precaution to avert infection. With this in mind, comes the point that the AHPD network is trying to drive across: how are ageing haulage drivers being safeguarded? The nature of their work currently threatens their health and well-being, yet given the case at hand, they have to continue with their jobs for the safety of the majority.

The AHPD Network has for some time now been trying to safeguard the rights of the elderly in the transport sector, and with the outbreak of COVID-19, their voice couldn’t be more warranted. The ageing driver workforce deserves a voice and it is for this reason that we endeavour to hear the industry’s response to this global pandemic. According to AHPD members, the impacts of the virus have been as follows.

Impact on the Industry

Different Haulage companies have had different effects following COVID-19. Companies dealing with online deliveries and food distribution have made quite the killing since these are the only businesses booming with the movement restrictions. On the other hand, haulage companies that dealt with deliveries to social destinations like restaurants and pubs are experiencing a hard time. As a result, employees have been laid off, while others are only paid partially and have to rely on government aid.

Some companies are even going to the extent of only paying statutory sick pay, which encourages people to work whilst sick just to bring something to the table. With regards to the flow of goods, drivers are now allowed to work longer, and train for a shorter time in an attempt to match the numerous online orders. This could be detrimental to the health and safety of drivers, who are over-exhausting themselves by working longer.

To safeguard the health of their drivers, companies have come up with new guidelines and protective gear. Some companies, however, have gone to the extent of exploiting the drivers’ willingness to work tirelessly, and therefore are delivering nonessential goods too.

Impact on Haulage Drivers

As previously stated, the majority of haulage drivers are in their later years. In fact, statistics show that 13% of HGV drivers are above 60 years old while the average age of an HGV driver is 57. It can be interpreted as an age group that is prone to infection and low energy levels. This articulates just how much risk the drivers are undertaking.

Additionally, this age group is known for ill-health and chronic health issues like diabetes and heart disease. They are also known to possess some poor lifestyle traits like lack of exercise, depression, unhealthy diets, and insomnia. Health professionals are therefore concerned about their health.

Moreover, reports have it that these drivers have been barred from using handwashing and restroom facilities in their recent destinations for fear of disease spread, yet assessing these facilities is critical for their own sanitation.

It, therefore, poses the question, are their humanitarian roles during this time worth the risk they are running?