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Open Access Study protocol

The Heavy Vehicle Study: a case-control study investigating risk factors for crash in long distance heavy vehicle drivers in Australia

Mark Stevenson1, Lisa N Sharwood1*, Keith Wong2, Jane Elkington1, Lynn Meuleners3, Rebecca Q Ivers1, Ron R Grunstein2, Ann Williamson4, Narelle Haworth5 and Robyn Norton1

Author affiliations

1 The George Institute, The University of Sydney, Sydney Australia

2 The Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, Sydney, Australia

3 Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Australia

4 University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

5 Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2010, 10:162  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-162

Published: 26 March 2010

Abstract

Background

Heavy vehicle transportation continues to grow internationally; yet crash rates are high, and the risk of injury and death extends to all road users. The work environment for the heavy vehicle driver poses many challenges; conditions such as scheduling and payment are proposed risk factors for crash, yet the precise measure of these needs quantifying. Other risk factors such as sleep disorders including obstructive sleep apnoea have been shown to increase crash risk in motor vehicle drivers however the risk of heavy vehicle crash from this and related health conditions needs detailed investigation.

Methods and Design

The proposed case control study will recruit 1034 long distance heavy vehicle drivers: 517 who have crashed and 517 who have not. All participants will be interviewed at length, regarding their driving and crash history, typical workloads, scheduling and payment, trip history over several days, sleep patterns, health, and substance use. All participants will have administered a nasal flow monitor for the detection of obstructive sleep apnoea.

Discussion

Significant attention has been paid to the enforcement of legislation aiming to deter problems such as excess loading, speeding and substance use; however, there is inconclusive evidence as to the direction and strength of associations of many other postulated risk factors for heavy vehicle crashes. The influence of factors such as remuneration and scheduling on crash risk is unclear; so too the association between sleep apnoea and the risk of heavy vehicle driver crash. Contributory factors such as sleep quality and quantity, body mass and health status will be investigated. Quantifying the measure of effect of these factors on the heavy vehicle driver will inform policy development that aims toward safer driving practices and reduction in heavy vehicle crash; protecting the lives of many on the road network.