Read this fictional job advertisement, based on the research and experiences of people in this occupation, and decide if it is appealing to you.
‘Staff wanted: Must work more than 60 hours per week. Must like being under constant time pressures. Must be a night owl because you will be regularly required to work through the night and into the early hours of the morning while constantly avoiding safety hazards. Must like social isolation and the potential threat of violence every time you work. Best not to have any family as you might barely get to see them. You will likely become overweight or obese in this job because of its demands and you are four times more likely to get injured while doing this job. Finally, if you’re a man, your risk of suicide is higher in this job than in other occupations.Apply now .’
The work environment outlined above is the reality for our nation’s truck drivers. This is not necessarily the fault of transport company operators and owners – this is not a blame game – but merely a reflection on the demands of the difficult job these workers do.
The Driving Health Study Survey of 1400 drivers from across Australia, conducted by Monash University, found that:
Most drivers were overweight or obese, with one of two drivers obese compared to one in three Australian men of similar age
Two thirds of drivers had three or more diagnosed medical conditions, which is four times greater than the average Australian
One of the most common medical conditions being back problems, with musculoskeletal conditions accounting for about 3/5 of all compensation pain for drivers
One in five, versus one in nine in Australian men of the same age, experience severe psychological distress, and
Chronic pain was common, with two in every three reporting pain. The majority of those saying their pain had lasted three months or more.
Truck drivers injured at work receive significantly more prescriptions for opioids than the general population. Of those who are prescribed painkillers, one in three are still using them 2.5 years after their injury. This is despite the fact that opioids are generally regarded as a short-term therapeutic option.
The link between pain and mental health in drivers is also concerning. Of the drivers who received a medical prescription 90% were for strong pain killers and 30% were also prescribed with anti-depressants.
Every job has downsides and silver linings. However, I imagine that the reality of this job would be difficult to endure for a long period of time and certainly a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude is needed to continue doing this work. But at some point, things won’t be right and need to be addressed. There are approximately 200,000 truck drivers in Australia and they need support to help them better understand and manage their chronic pain. For us to do this, we need to understand their story.
If you or someone you know is a truck driver who has experienced an injury while at work, the SBS would love to hear from you.
The SBS Television's Insight program is working on a show about returning to work after a workplace injury (physical or psychological). They are hoping to speak with truck drivers who've had this experience, about what it was like to return to work if they could, and what the journey was like.
If you're up for sharing your story - please reach out via email email@example.com - conversations confidential.
As a community, we need to do more to identify workplace structures and practices that create and exacerbate chronic pain. There is no point having the best treatments available, if we are still not seeking to reduce the incidence of pain in the first place.