Exploring the experiences of long-distance truck drivers utilising Employee Assistance Programmes in South Africa
Shweni, Prudence Deidre
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Long-distance truck drivers play a vital role in the economy. The trucking industry makes it possible for businesses to move products nationally and internationally. Long-distance truck driving is not only important, but also an extremely dangerous occupation. The drivers are exposed to various challenges such as accidents on the road, long working hours, time pressures, unusual sleep patterns and safety concerns. They also experience physical health issues such as diabetes, heart diseases, cholesterol and chronic conditions. These challenges have a negative influence on the overall well-being of long-distance truck drivers and their work performance. The objective of this study was to explore the experiences of long-distance truck divers by means of Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) in South Africa. A qualitative research design was utilised based on an interpretivism paradigm. A qualitative descriptive strategy was applied following a combination of convenience and purposive sampling so as to reach the objectives of this study. Long-distance truck drivers in South Africa (N=17) participated in this study, and data-collection was done via face-to-face interviews. The results of the study indicated that long-distance truck drivers are faced with a large amount of challenges or demands while on the job, which has a negative influence on their physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing. The existing EAPs provide primary health-care services to long-distance truck drivers such as general check-ups, functioning of the heart, HIV-testing, referrals, testing blood pressure and blood sugar, testing cholesterol, testing for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and checking their weight. Some drivers had negative experiences, for instance that the EAPs are closed most of the time, some EAPs have long queues and they occasionally run out of stock. However, the majority of the drivers experienced the EAPs in a positive light because they indicated that when they go to the EAPs their concerns are addressed, the services are free, they do not have to wait long, the staff are friendly and professional, they receive expert advice, and there is enough parking space for the trucks. The results show that truck drivers experience demands that influence their work performance negatively. These demands include accidents due to lack of sleep, fatigue, inconsiderate fellow road users, long working hours, pressure from the supervisors, safety concerns, spending less time at home and working overtime. The results also reported contributions made by the EAPs such as sharing knowledge about health with the drivers, saving time, providing medication and assistance. According to the findings the participants reported being satisfied with the services provided, but that they would like the following additional services: a gym for exercising, and eye testing. The results indicate that the drivers expressed overall satisfaction with the services provided and further indicated that the participants made no recommendations. However, some did mention that the operating hours should be reconsidered. Although most of the participants in the study who utilises the EAPs are happy with the services provided; it is still evident that the main focus of the EAPs is providing primary health-care to long-distance truck drivers. The present study grants EAPs the opportunity of improving the current services that are offered and of creating a programme with a holistic approach to truck drivers’ needs. Recommendations were also made for future research and practice.