When it comes to making a dent in improving the health of Australian ‘truckies’, Di Carroll is something of a prime mover.
The determined crusader and her independent Tarcutta-based Trans-Help Foundation are making significant inroads into the road freight transport industry’s ‘wellness’ dilemma.
Operating a 24/7 national 1300 support line and four mobile preventative health check units, Di and her 40 volunteers have helped more than 10,000 transport families since 2005.
“My first husband Gary was killed in the industry, crushed by a falling load of logs, and my dad was a truck driver, as are my brother and nephews, so we’ve been around trucks all our lives,” said the mum of six and grandmother of four.
“The foundation brings a lot of personal experience and that’s what the guys relate to; we can go out there and talk the talk.”
Recognising workers’ reluctance to use company-run counselling services – due to a fear of being benched after flagging health or personal issues – the national charity rolled out its first Mobile Health and Support Units in 2008. The results were staggering; out of 200 participants, more than 75 per cent had medical issues.
“We found that drivers didn’t have access to doctors and if they were able to get a GP appointment, they were usually at the other end of the country,” she said.
“Furthermore, many drivers weren’t taking prescribed medication, either because they couldn’t get to a GP to get a new script or visit a pharmacy.”
A typical example was a 29-year-old driver and father of two who thought he was fine but was actually overweight with high blood pressure and cholesterol and sleep apnoea.
“After we put the wind up him with health check results, he took the next day off work and went to the doctor for a check-up,” she said.
“His doctor told him to thank us as we’d probably helped save his life.”
Equally concerning were the underlying health issues and other factors contributing to fatalities and incidents that Trans-Help volunteers discovered during counselling of widows or drivers.
“Fatigue is everywhere but it masks the underlying issues; for example, we are campaigning hard against energy drinks as we believe these are a major killer in the transport industry,” she said.
Di said Trans-Help was concerned about the promotion of energy drinks as a solution for fatigue, particularly as some drivers consumed too many – often along with No-Doz and Berocca – a potential recipe for disaster.
Equally concerning were the results of transport company visits where volunteers conducted overall health assessments of staff. One had found three out of five mechanics were on anti-depressants to help them cope with work-related stress.
“And these are the guys who repair and maintain the trucks that go out on the roads,” she said.
“I honestly think the biggest problem in the industry is a lack of education, so the more drivers and companies we can reach out to, the better.
“Everyone needs to understand that people’s lives and health are much more important than time slots, allocations and deadlines.”
Find out more at transhelpfoundation.com.au including the charity’s partnership with GP2U, providing truckies with instant access to doctors via video conference using computer, tablet or mobile phone.
The Get Healthy at Work initiative also provides free tools, templates and resources – and online health checks – to address workplace health issues.
To contact WorkCover NSW, call 13 10 50 or visit our website.