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2 minute read

As restrictions ease, Australians are getting back on the roads. While some organisations may implement a work from home option, many are needed back in offices and on site. This means early morning trips, working the usual grind and driving back home in the late afternoons.

Occupational drivers, by nature of their jobs, spend a significant time driving on the roads. They are a crucial part of our economy and society. Fleet drivers, delivery drivers, truckies as well as any employees and managers who drive from different sites or travel to venues are all considered occupational drivers. With a newfound appreciation for delivery drivers and truckies during the lockdown, the dangers of constant driving have been brought into sharper focus.

With lockdowns lifted and Christmas coming, it’s worthwhile to think about the safety of workers driving on the road. An estimated 30% of vehicles on the roads are work-related.

Fatigue is a major issue faced by occupational drivers and is also one of the three leading causes of fatal deaths and serious injuries on Australian roads. Driving tired may be common practice to many but being awake for 17 hours is equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05. We wouldn’t drive drunk so why would we drive tired?

Fatigue-related incidents make up to 20-30% of all of Australia’s fatal crashes. In NSW, about 67 people die and 645 are seriously injured in fatigue-related crashes annually; in WA it is an estimated 20 deaths per year. It’s even more of a serious problem for occupational drivers who constantly drive around as part of their jobs, often with little to no rest between shifts.

As of 14th October, 102 Australian workers were killed at work in 2021. Road crashes cause around 30% of workplace fatalities and SafeWork NSW says that one in four deaths on the state’s roads are people driving for work. In 2018, machinery operators and drivers made up 35% of employees killed at work.

For many, a vehicle is the workplace.

Devastating incidents involving freight drivers crashing due to the long, gruelling work conditions often appear in the news. In 2020, five food delivery riders in NSW were killed on the job. Risks unrelated to driving hazards also exist. With more time driving, increased exposure to exhaust fumes affects the lungs. Occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals and dusts contributes to a significant percentage of lung cancers in Australia. The stress of long hours on the road and time spent away from home can lead to driver burnout.

Every employee has the right to a workplace free from hazards – one that is safe and health – every manager has the responsibility to provide such a workplace for their employees.

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