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World at work: truck drivers
  1. Allard J van der Beek1,2
  1. 1Department of Public and Occupational Health, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  2. 2Body@Work, Research Center for Physical Activity, Work and Health, TNO VUmc, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Professor Allard van der Beek, Department of Public and Occupational Health, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center, Van der Boechorststraat 7, NL-1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands; a.vanderbeek{at}vumc.nl

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The road haulage industry employs millions of workers worldwide and most of them are male truck drivers (or lorry drivers in British English). Generally, truck drivers are poorly educated and have low socio-economic status. Nonetheless, truck driving is associated with freedom and adventure, and the job is appreciated for the autonomy that it gives. However, several hazards have been mentioned in the literature. The aim of this paper is to give an overview of: (1) the tasks and activities of truck drivers; (2) the hazards of the truck driver's job; and (3) measures to protect truck drivers. Before doing so, however, a general description of the different types of truck drivers is provided.

Although all truck drivers spend a substantial part of their working day behind the wheel, they are not a homogeneous group as the remaining tasks can differ enormously from one driver to another. Hence, it is useful to categorise truck drivers, which has been done in different ways. First, truck drivers can be classified according to driving distance, ranging from local delivery drivers with dozens of different addresses to call to each day to long-distance drivers with journeys of more than 1 day. Generally the proportion of working time spent driving increases and the amount of time loading and unloading decreases with longer distances. Large countries, such as Australia and the USA, tend to have relatively more long-distance drivers.

Second, truck drivers are often grouped by the (type of) product they transport or by the method of transport. The (type of) product can be the key factor in occupational exposures. For instance, transport of hazardous chemical materials increases the driver's risk of being exposed to these chemicals, and transport of animals or flowers might involve exposure to certain biological hazards. However, the (type of) product does not have …

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