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Driver wellbeing - why it matters

11 April 2016

The driver ultimately is the one person who when you think about it, really does matter.

No matter what business you are in, be it freight, logistics, bus, coach, what ever the industry at the end of the day no one gets paid unless the vehicle delivers. I have spent the majority of my career managing bus drivers, and a great experience it has been too I have to say.

But in reality did I really care about the drivers well-being? In truth no of course not I was always far too busy worrying about covering duties, managing the over time, keeping costs down and generally trying not to get the sack. Now you can call me a cynical old Hector (for those who remember the classic seventies kids TV show) but when I reflect upon it all the culture back in the day gave no thought really about the well-being of the key asset, the person who drove the vehicle that you trusted them with in the first place.

It is ironic looking back that all that effort and energy went into making sure that the vehicle was washed, cleaned and fuelled so that it was fit for purpose. But what effort went into making sure that the driver was fit for purpose? Well none really most of the time all that mattered was that the allocated person turned up on time and went away out of sight out of mind.

And that was pretty much how it used to be back in the day. So what has changed that in 2016 makes me think that actually what really does matter is the welfare of the person who is driving. Well a combination of factors is the simple answer. First and foremost I would like to think that it is a genuine desire to make sure that the person driving is actually OK.

Do not get me wrong I am not advocating a nanny state but what I am saying is this. Has that driver who just signed on had a good nights rest? Or has that driver been up all night playing call of duty 3, or been on late night dating agencies. Even worse had they been drinking or taking drugs or indeed both. The simple truth is that most of the time we do not know.

However technology can and will play its part in identifying drivers who have issues, telematics technology  can give us great data about driving styles and weaknesses and to some extent we are duty bound to respond to what it tells us. Today more than ever before drivers have more distractions than ever, mobile phones, text messages, tablets, sat nav it is all in the cab and all accessible. In addition the sedentary life style of sat driving day in day out does not make for a particularly fit life style.

Diet and exercise are challenging at the best of times but at the end of the day a fit and healthy employee is an asset to any business less days off sick and generally a happier disposition is always a positive benefit. So maybe the time is right for us as a profession to think about what we need to do to put the driver at the heart of the business, after all at this point in time we are struggling with a chronic shortage of drivers that shows no sign of getting better any time soon.

Maybe it is time we looked at why people do not want to drive for a living and we tackle the real reasons why they do not want to choose this as a life style, and I would suggest it is not about money pay and conditions it is more about the poor perception people have about driving as a career life style. Time that we changed that before it is too late.