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New Programme Kicks Off To Help Logging Drivers

MEDIA RELEASE
19 August 2008

New Programme Kicks Off To Help Logging Truck Drivers Improve Health And Fitness After Industry Concerns

New Zealand’s logging transport industry is to start trialling a programme to help its drivers become fitter and healthier.

An informal survey of 400 logging truck drivers conducted earlier this year showed that 40 - or 10% - had experienced heart-attacks, heart surgery, a stroke, or had died as a result of cardiovascular disease. Two of these drivers had even died while on the job.

Transport Engineering Research New Zealand (TERNZ) then carried out research for the Log Transport Safety Council (LTSC) and ACC, using driver questionnaires, company health records, in-cab driver interviews and workplace assessments.

That research also showed widespread health problems among log truck drivers. The main problems were:

• Obesity with 39% of drivers classified as ‘obese’ or ‘very obese’, compared to approximately 22% of New Zealand males of a similar age
• Work/life balance because of the early start times and long hours
• Workplace injuries particularly during loading in the forest, sitting in the cab, getting in and out of the cab, and damage to their hearing.

With driver recruitment and retention a major issue for New Zealand’s trucking industry as a whole, and logging companies in particular, the Log Transport Safety Council recognised something had to be done to life the health of drivers.

“The early start times and long hours sitting in the cab are the primary culprits undermining truck drivers’ health,” said Warwick Wilshier, the chairman of the LTSC. “That means there’s little opportunity to keep active and eat well. Also the fatigue that comes from long hours, insufficient sleep, and a bad diet may increase the risk of on-road and ‘out of cab’ accidents.”

TERNZ was then commissioned to develop a pilot wellness programme, “Fit for the Road”, for log truck drivers. The new programme is primarily funded by the LTSC and ACC.

“Fit for the Road will focus primarily in increasing drivers’ fitness and improving their nutrition,” said Hamish Mackie from TERNZ, who will be overseeing the programme that will be run by Michelle Kedian from MAC Health and Safety.

“The programme will be run remotely with the information and support delivered via email or a freephone number, so we hope that drivers or owner-operators will team up to keep each other motivated. That would also inject an element of competition into it, which we know these guys respond to,” he said.

The year-long programme will begin with a health check carried out by Vitality Works, followed by monthly themes for drivers covering various health and fitness subjects. A second health check at the end of the period will measure their progress.

“We know that trucking-specific health and fitness programmes run overseas have made significant improvements to the wellbeing of truck drivers. And in terms of financials, investing in these programmes has given returns of up to four dollars in every dollar spent,” Mr Mackie said.

ACC’s trucking safety programme manager Debbie Stearns said she sees the programme as a sound injury prevention measure, which is a core part of ACC’s business. “Truck drivers who are fit and healthy are less likely to have heart attacks or other seizures behind the wheel. Also anyone who’s properly fit to do their job is less likely to injure themselves.”

The pilot programme will be open to 40 logging truck drivers, owner-operators and log transport managers. It will begin in October with the call for registrations going out in the next few weeks.

If the programme is successful, TERNZ hopes to extend it across the transport industry.

“We know we have a problem and now that we’ve developed this programme we hope we can succeed in making our members fitter and healthier. In the end that means we’re preserving our precious workforce,” said LTSC’s Warwick Wilshier.

For more information about the programme, please go to
http://web.mydns.net.nz/logtruck.co.nz or contact Hamish Mackie: email h.mackie@ternz.co.nz or phone 09 262 2556.

ends

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