Looking after the physical and mental health of your HGV workforce

March 4th, 2020

Guest blog by Natalie Billing, Wellbeing Coordinator, Public Health Northamptonshire

Key Lorry Driver Statistics:

So why is it important for managers to be focusing on their staff wellbeing?

The SHIFT Study (Clemes, S.A. et al 2017-2020) is an on-going longitudinal study run from Loughborough University (UK) and takes place within 24 transport depots owned by DHL within the Midlands (UK).

‘Long-distance lorry drivers are more likely to be overweight or obese than those working in other occupations. This increases their risk of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and sleep disturbances. Due to the nature of their jobs, lorry drivers are faced with many barriers when it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle. They spend long periods of time sitting, their opportunities to be physically active while at work are limited, the food available at rest stops tends to be unhealthy, and working shifts means they get less sleep. As a consequence of these working conditions and unhealthy lifestyle choices, lorry drivers have a lower life expectancy than the average working person. They are currently an ‘at-risk’ and underserved group in terms of health promotion efforts. Given the well-being of lorry drivers can directly affect the safety of other road users. They also have a large prevalence of anxiety and depression at over 40%’

The SHIFT study focuses on the impact that increasing physical activity, improving diet and reducing sitting (during breaks and non-work time) has on HGV drivers.

Quick tips to promote to your staff:

  1. Exercise Your Eyes. Hours on the road take their toll on your eyes, tiredness and blurred vision is key. A few simple exercises once parked up include rolling your eyes back and forth and giving yourself a gentle lift. Shifting focus deliberately from one place to another can also help.
  2. Clean Your Cab. Untidiness means the driving area may be harbouring some germs. Taking a couple of minutes to clean the cab makes sense. That includes giving areas like the steering wheel the once over with a bacterial wipe.
  3. Make Your Own Food. It can be tempting to stop off at the motorway services and munch on a high-calorie snack, but this isn’t very good for your health and well-being or your waistline.
    Taking your own prepared food is a much better option, so swap that burger for a homemade chicken salad. If you like to munch on something while driving, exchange crisps and chocolate bars for nuts and dried fruit.
  4. Cut Energy Drinks and Other choices that can be just as unhealthy and are widely available on the road. If you’re downing too many energy drinks, sugar, caffeine, and preservatives can actually drain your energy levels rather than boost them. A Coffee once in a while is fine but try to stick to water for the rest of your time driving. It keeps you hydrated and more awake than unhealthy energy drinks, especially when driving at night.
  5. Get Some Exercise Where You Can. If you put your mind to it, there are plenty of ways to get some exercise while you are on a long journey. For instance, doing a few exercises where you tense muscles and then relax them can be the easiest thing to do while heading down the motorway. When you park up, do so a bit further away from buildings so that you can get some walking exercise.
  6. Exercise Your Mind. Finally, just because you’re driving doesn’t mean you can’t keep your mind working. There are audiobooks you can buy or you can download a podcast for your favorite show, you can even learn a language while on the move. Keeping those grey cells working while you’re driving through the night is the best way to ensure your mental health stays in tip-top condition.

How Public Health Northamptonshire can help

Public Health Northamptonshire has launched a new Workplace Wellbeing package which provides a range of wellbeing programmes to support employees to make sustainable lifestyle changes. These packages can be designed to suit different workplaces and include programmes such as Healthy Lifestyle Programmes, Health MOTs, and Smoking Cessation, amongst others.

The team also delivers more formal programmes such as the Mental Health First Aid qualification, which provides workplaces with guidance and training in how best to support colleagues with mental ill health.

Public Health Northamptonshire has also been working with the local health and wellbeing forums to produce a set of recognised workplace standards. The aim of the standards is for workplaces to have a set of best practice criteria to work towards in relation to health and wellbeing across areas such as Leadership, Mental Health, and Healthy Eating.

Any business interested in the workplace wellbeing programme can contact the team by emailing workplacehealth@northamptonshire.gov.uk


Clemes, S.A. et al., (2019). A cluster randomised controlled trial to investigate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of a Structured Health Intervention For Truckers (the SHIFT study): a study protocol. BMJ Open, [Online] Volume 9(11), Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31767581 [Assessed 04 March. 2020)

Lorry Driver Statistics sourced from:


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