Driving for Work in a Pandemic
In this excerpt from Covid-19: A Guide for Fleet Managers, Dr Lisa Dorn looks at the issues facing people that drive for work during the current crisis:
The speed and scale of the impact of the pandemic is having a serious effect on mental health for some individuals. Stress is a prominent risk factor for alcohol misuse and people appear to be turning to alcohol as a method of coping with stress (Clay, 2020). Alcohol sales leapt by 22% in March topping £1.1bn in the four weeks to 22nd March – an extra £199m compared to the same period in 2019. Fleet managers need to be extra vigilant to ensure that fleet drivers are not under the influence of alcohol when they report for work.
Social isolation can lead to stress, anxiety and depression. Fleet drivers may feel powerless in the face of such a widespread threat to their health generating fears, worries and anxieties. Anxiety states may endure, especially given that the provoking conditions will persist for some time as we battle to control the spread of the virus and find a vaccine. Stress is known to influence driver behaviour leading to increased distraction and crash involvement.
There has been a huge increase in the demand for home deliveries as working hours are relaxed and workloads increase. Large numbers of drivers are being recruited to deal with a massive increase in online orders. Emergency service drivers are also under enormous pressure putting themselves in harm’s way to help others. Passenger service drivers are required to drive a reduced number of hours during lockdown and deal with an increased exposure to the virus from their passengers. Continued and cumulative stress can lead to lack of sleep and exhaustion. Fleet managers need to be aware of the stresses and strains on different groups of professional drivers, especially the effects of fatigue on driving.
Empty roads may be a trigger for high speed driving as fleet drivers complete deliveries. An open road with little traffic can be an environmental cue for excessive speed, especially for those fleet drivers with thrill seeking tendencies.