An Inquiry into Contextual Factors Impacting the Occupational Health, Safety, and Well-Being of New Zealand Truck Drivers: an Ecological Systems Approach
This thesis provides an exploratory and critical inquiry of the system including contextual factors that impact the occupational health, safety, and well-being (OHSW) of truck drivers in New Zealand.
Truck drivers, both in New Zealand and abroad are reported to be experiencing consequences of poor OHSW. Society, communities, families and individual workers have been found to be paying, directly and indirectly, for working arrangements in which truck drivers consequently work harder and longer, for less benefits and a greater share of the risks. Given how little was known about the impact of the system on the individual a critical inquiry into the trucking industry was required.
Previous attempts to address such issues in Australasia have predominantly been narrow in approach – considering only small sets of variables, and generally centred on modifying driver behaviour. This study used Ecological Systems Theory to identify and understand wider contextual factors not previously considered, and the roles and interactions of these.
There were three phases of data collection covering: archival data review – both public and private, and Key Informant and driver interviews. The methods drew together 45 interviewed participants from positions throughout the system levels including national bodies, industry representatives, organisations, and the individual truck drivers. There were 25 Key Informants and 20 truck drivers interviewed. Five key themes resulted. The organisation of work in the industry was found to have a detrimental impact on the OHSW of truck drivers in New Zealand. Secondly, those in management positions faced conflict between profit and their responsibility to the drivers’ OHSW. This is linked to the third key theme: the role of the employment relationship, which as a discipline, has been largely overlooked in the trucking industry in New Zealand. The fourth theme explores the industry culture and how norms were found to be a barrier to change. The final theme highlights how a failure in systems thinking meant previous efforts to improve OHSW have been fragmented and do not consider the complexity of the trucking industry in New Zealand. There is appetite to address the issues to some degree, but regulators, government officials and others desirous of change need better evidence of the potential size of the prize from addressing the issues highlighted in this thesis. This study provides that evidence.