Van Drivers' Biggest Challenges
According to recent data, UK van traffic now accounts for a fifth of all road traffic, and it’s on track to double by 2040. At the same time, van drivers are spending more time behind the wheel and driving longer distances, which is bound to take a serious toll on mental health. The life of a business van driver can seem uncomplicated, but the job comes with many challenges and, especially during peak season, they can affect performance, health, and wellbeing.
Understanding the challenges that van drivers go through during the busiest time of year is crucial if you want to boost business efficiency and ensure proper working conditions for your staff.
Loneliness due to long periods of separation from loved ones
Winter is the busiest time for business van drivers and, to cope with high demand, they often have to work long hours, and the night catches them on the road. Although it’s not as socially isolating as truck driving, which has drivers spend weeks away from their families, van driving still involves hectic schedules. Drivers have to do a lot of overtime, work in the evening, and during the weekends, and these long periods of social isolation and separation from loved ones have been linked to a higher risk of mental health issues such as stress, depression, and anxiety. According to Harvard researchers, the quality of one’s social relationships weighs more than income, genetics, and cholesterol levels in predicting a long and happy life. During the holidays, most parents get days off and relax at home with their families, but for van drivers, it’s the other way around. Christmas and Easter are the busiest times of the year, and they have to go to work, so they miss important family events such as school recitals and family dinners. Alienation and the stress of missing out can take a heavy toll on family relations.
Of course, things are much easier now than they were in the 70s or 80s, when drivers couldn’t get in touch with their families. Now, we have the Internet, which makes it possible to be there for loved ones – virtually, at least. However, online communications aren’t without their risks. Family Zoom conferences are great, but if they’re held over public Wi-Fi in cafes and gas stations, they can pose high security risks, so drivers should use a VPN to protect themselves.
The physical and emotional impact of long working hours
All jobs are associated with their respective health risks but, for van drivers, the risks are higher than average. According to data from the Department of Transport, the average van driver covers over 13,000 miles every year, and spending so much time sitting down can cause back and neck problems. It is estimated that almost half of the van drivers in the UK suffer from strain injuries regularly, in addition to muscle tightness, back pain, and poor posture. Things can get worse for delivery drivers, who have to carry heavy weights all day.
Then there’s the constant stress associated with driving for long hours. Now, one might argue that driving through traffic is stressful even on a good day, but van drivers are more prone to stress during peak season because the traffic is even worse then. One in five van drivers in the UK report feeling stressed at work, and doctors warn that in the long run, this can lead to serious complications such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, eating disorders, gastrointestinal problems, and mental health disorders. Needless to say, stress and fatigue reduce the driver’s ability to focus, and that leads to a higher risk of road accidents. In theory, a driving day shouldn’t have more than ten hours, but still, many van drivers say that during the busiest times of the year they drive more than that and they often don’t have time to take that 30-minute break after five hours. In the UK, 40% of accidents caused by falling asleep behind the wheel involve commercial vehicles.
Apart from the stress associated with driving, there’s also the stress of dealing with difficult clients. During the pandemic, when most physical retail outlets were closed, people made a record number of online orders, which put a strain of logistics. The jobs of delivery drivers became even more important, and the number of difficult customers grew considerably. Although delayed packages and faulty products are outside of the driver’s control, many customers lash out on them. Some drivers even reported being threatened or written up for misunderstandings or packaging issues that they were not responsible for.
Delivery drivers are at risk of robbery and assault.
In popular culture, they say that the delivery driver is the person who you’re most looking forward to seeing that day, but in reality, things can take a much darker turn. A Business Insider investigation revealed that some drivers are faced with hostility and even threatened. Examples include customers who didn’t know what the driver was doing on their property, freaked out, and almost assaulted them and customers who let the dogs out.
Many drivers spoke up about people who tried to rob them during the peak season. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Boxing Day are known for the high number of online orders, and drivers explained that during these peak times, robbers are on the lookout for deliveries. These are the so-called “porch pirates”, who follow drivers on their route and wait for them to leave to steal packages. The lockdown may have made the job of porch pirates easier, since many customers requested contactless delivery. In the past year, several cases of van drivers being kidnapped have made the news, and many drivers said that they were concerned about working during the winter months. One US driver talked about how the holidays make people desperate, and especially those who suffered financially because of the pandemic have extra motives to steal packages. It’s definitely not a pleasant scenario, but drivers from all over the world have explained how they had to be more vigilant to avoid robbery.
Source: Business Vans
Added: 18th February 2021