Stress of work taking toll on lorry drivers

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The Independent Online
Three out of ten lorry drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel and nearly half of them caused accidents as a result, according to a report published yesterday.

The study, compiled by a leading environment consultant, blamed increasing pressure on professional drivers to work for longer periods and called for stricter regulation by the Government.

Commissioned by the Transport and General Workers' Union, the report attacked Britain's "failing" transport system for dramatic increases in illness among both coach and lorry drivers. "The constant pressure to drive down costs is the biggest killer of all," according to a T&G spokesman.

There was evidence of increasing incidences of stress, heart disease, musculoskeletal disorders, stomach ulcers and cancers among drivers, according to the report, The Health of Professional Drivers.

Bill Morris, general secretary of the T&G, which claims to cover 160,000 drivers, said that many of the dangerous illnesses were caused by pollution and congestion and were an indictment of government policies. Deregulation of the bus industry in particular had increased the pressure upon drivers so that many of them were working up to the legal limits and some of them beyond.

Under domestic legislation, which covers a minority of lorry drivers and most coach drivers, employees are allowed to work up to 60 hours in a week and drive for 10 hours a day.

European law means that most lorry drivers can work up to 11 hours a day. The report argues that there should be lower limits on driving hours and that the regulations should be more strictly enforced.

Mr Morris said that few drivers were able to retire at the normal ages of 60 or 65 because their health prevented them from continuing to work. There was, however, no compensation for failing the five-yearly medicals which begin at the age of 45 and few companies provided pension schemes.

The report recommends that drivers should be given more input into their work schedules and routes. It also argues that there should be longer breaks from driving, better cab design and ventilation, and replacement of old vehicles.