How to Improve Truck Driver Ergonomics for Long Hours of Driving

Keeping drivers safe and happy is a critical responsibility for fleet managers, and one major aspect is improving truck seat and cabin ergonomics. Long haul truckers can drive up to 11 hours per day, according to the Hours of Service regulations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Local field service drivers may only work 8 hours daily, where they drive between each service stop. Both types of work involve stresses on the body caused by the driving position that can cause driver health problems.

Because there are many risks inherent in operating a vehicle fleet – along with the struggles fleet managers face in retaining drivers – making sure drivers are comfortable in the vehicles they are operating can keep them happy and productive on the job.

Why Extensive Driving with Poor Ergonomics Hurts Drivers

According to the Canadian Center of Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), those who are spending a bulk of their days driving have an increased chance of experiencing certain health-related issues, particularly musculoskeletal disorders 1. These issues can be exacerbated in drivers if their fleet manager has neglected to understand more about what the negative effects of poor driving ergonomic behaviors are, including:

If the driver has poor posture, whether this is the result of a personal habit, or an improperly adjusted seat.
The result of low-frequency vibrations in moving cars and trucks, which can contribute to negative effects on the lower back.

The shape of the vehicle seat, which may also apply unwanted pressure on selected parts of the legs, back and buttocks. This can lead to pain or discomfort at pressure points and may affect blood flow to the legs and feet.

Breakdown of Driving Health Issues

According to the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers, truck drivers who are on the road for extended periods of time are four times more likely to experience a ruptured disc, and those who drive cars for longer lengths of time are twice as likely to injure themselves in the same way. 2 Experiencing vehicle vibrations for long periods of time will also lead to increased tension, fatigue, and pain for drivers.

Beyond issues like this – as well as other aches and pains – obesity is also linked to being an issue for drivers who are on the road for longer periods of time. Those who drive long distances to work are more likely to be overweight than their non-commuting counterparts, according to a study that linked urban sprawl with expanding waistlines, according to a report from ABC News. 3

“Previous studies have tied time spent sitting to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and early death,” the report also observed.

With worries about maintaining driver retention a top-of-mind concern for fleets, being aware of these potential driver health issues will help fleet managers address them as needed in their efforts to improve morale.

Truck Cabin and Seat Needs for Proper Driver Ergonomics

It is important for fleet managers to be involved closely in discussions with their drivers and other internal departments to make sure these ergonomic pain points are being considered as a crucial element of the fleet’s policy, and they don’t become a neglected afterthought.
With that some basic needs should be met at the very least; a vehicle’s interior must be adjustable so drivers of different heights and shapes can appropriately reach the various controls of the vehicle, while also having enough space to sit comfortably.
Generally, drivers should have roughly 10 to 12 inches of space between the steering wheel and their chest, in order for the seat belt and airbag to provide the maximum safety protection in case of a crash, according to CCOHS.
Establishing best practices is especially important for long-haul truckers, in which seat height, the seatback angle, seat pad depth, and seat pad tilty (among many other variables) are essential, according to the University of Washington Ergonomics Laboratory. 4

Are you ready to learn more? Talk to a Fleet Advisor today.

Training Truck Drivers for Safe Ergonomics

Fleet managers should read through truck and van manuals and generally try to understand how certain interior vehicle adjustments can be made to the various assets in their fleet portfolio, then communicate important items they find related to driver ergonomics to the drivers. 

Since every vehicle is different, company drivers may have difficulties understanding the ins and outs of their work vehicles, making this especially important for fleet managers to consider. The answer for this problem is training fleet drivers to adjust their seats properly.

Fleet managers should not simply expect their drivers to discover by themselves what the best practices for optimizing the interior space of the vehicles they use on a daily basis are.

What Ergonomic Tips Can Help Fleet Drivers on the Road?

  • Keep your seat tilted at a 110-degree angle from your legs. This minimizes pressure to the spinal discs.
  • When traveling in vehicles that vibrate, tilt your seat slightly every 20-30 minutes. Vibrations can cause changes in bones and joints, tendons, muscles and even the nervous system.
  • Take breaks to walk around. If you’re on the road for two or more hours, stopping for walking and stretching can help blood flow to the legs.

Choosing Vehicles with Driver Ergonomics in Mind

When fleet assets are being acquired by an organization, beyond considering the vehicle’s functions for the business, fleet managers should also factor in if the vehicles are able to comfortably fit the needs of their drivers.

With that in mind, it may be worth considering the importance of having a varied fleet portfolio. 

For example, say a company is operating a sales fleet that is predominantly composed of sedans to conduct business. Does the driver’s seat of the sedans being acquired comfortably fit taller or bigger people? Perhaps also offering a roomier SUV/Crossover as an alternative for certain drivers would provide flexibility in the vehicle pool.

Talking with fleet drivers and workers in the field about the type of vehicles they believe will help accomplish their goals will go a long way into learning more about how the fleet can best accomplish work duties but also show them that upper management is considering their needs.

However, much of the acquisitions fleets are able to make in regards to this will be contingent on how these needs are conveyed to those who make purchasing decisions. 

Procuring Trucks and Vans for Driver Health and Safety

It’s integral that fleet managers have discussions with those who are making vehicle purchasing decisions and communicating what driver needs should be met in the vehicles that are being acquired, especially if drivers share similar duties across the board.

According to CCOHS, there are several factors that must be put into consideration: 

  • Do the vehicles match requirements for the body size of the driver(s) and any physical limitations the driver(s) may have?
  • Does the layout and ergonomic features of the vehicle – such as the steering wheel, seat, pedals and other controls, displays – meet basic driver needs?
  • How much time per day does the driver use the vehicle and what distance does he or she drive per year?
  • Does it have features that assist in the kind of work the driver does?

Communicating these points to procurement, or any other internal stakeholder who is critical in vehicle purchasing decisions will help improve the comfort and well-being of fleet drivers.

If you’d like to learn more about how GPS Trackit can help to improve safety, increase productivity and reduce costs for your business, speak with one of our knowledgeable Fleet Advisors at 866-320-5810 or get a quick Custom Quote.

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