Feature: Education for healthier and safer drivers

Unhealthy food, long periods of sitting and stressful work environments are making Europeans increasingly overweight, with obesity having doubled over the past twenty years. Truck drivers are particularly at risk.

Unhealthy food, long periods of sitting and stressful work environments are making Europeans increasingly overweight, with obesity having doubled over the past twenty years. Truck drivers are particularly at risk.

Volvo Trucks therefore now includes diet and health as part of its driver development programme, emphasising that they affect both personal quality of life and the driver’s professional level of competence. “We give them tips and suggestions on how to live a healthier lifestyle,” says Lucien van Zullen, driver trainer at Volvo Trucks in Holland.

“It isn’t exactly rocket science; rather, it’s all about making drivers aware of how they can eat and live more healthily. Eat breakfast, cycle to work instead of driving, and try to eat more vegetables. We also offer suggestions on what type of training can be done inside the truck cab. The solution lies in the small details.” During the course, the participants also learn how different types of food affect not only their physique but also their mood and ability to concentrate.

The average European long-haul driver has a BMI* of 28, which is just two small points away from the official classification for obesity. This was revealed in a survey conducted by Volvo Trucks of 2,300 drivers throughout Europe.

So why is health amongst truck drivers so poor? In 2009, Inge Van Bogerijen from the Institute of Sports and Health at Utrecht University investigated the subject and reported her findings in a special study*. She came to the conclusion that truck drivers find themselves in a very specific and unique environment, both physically and socially. “The working environment out on the roads is an obstacle to a healthier lifestyle among drivers. In my study I saw that many are willing to live a better lifestyle but that they feel they have limited practical opportunities to do so,” says Inge Van Bogerijen.

The foremost reason for poor health seems to be the high-fat food served at truck stops, combined with the sedentary nature of the work itself and the chronic lack of time due to long working days. “There is healthier food available at roadside eateries, but the problem is that this is often much more expensive. Drivers are either not willing or in many cases simply not able to pay so much,” says Inge Van Bogerijen. “What’s more, truck-stops don’t exactly invite training and exercise. There is often no gym on site and inside the cab there is obviously very little scope for physical exercise owing to the limited space.”

However, improving driver health is not only the responsibility of the driver, there is a lot employers can do to help too. Dutch haulage firm Nijhof-Wassink is among the growing number of companies to realise the importance of working preventively on health. The company allows its employees to take part in a programme that focuses on a healthier lifestyle and in return they get healthier drivers. “This is a win-win situation where the driver is healthier and more active. At the same time, we reduce costs,” explains Jogé Nijhof, part owner of Nijhof-Wassink. “We gain since our employees take less time off sick. One day off for ill-health costs a lot of money, and you can get a whole lot of coaching for that money. If you have satisfied employees, everything works so much more smoothly. It’s as simple as that.”

The bottom line is that haulage companies have a vested interested in their drivers’ well-being. “Healthy employees are less tired, more keen to work and more concentrated,” says Lucien. “Investing in one’s employees is thus a long-term and profitable move, because just as one might invest in a safe truck, it’s important to also invest in a safe driver.”

Health and First Aid is just one of the courses within the Volvo Trucks driver development program. So far, more than 35,000 drivers in Europe have participated in the various Volvo Trucks’ driver development training programmes that are offered in cooperation with the dealers.

September 1, 2011

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For further information, please contact:
Veronica Nyblom, Media Relations Europe, phone +4631 322 09 97, e-mail