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Optimizing Work Truck Ergonomics

Optimizing Work Truck Ergonomics

Work trucks serve as mobile offices for professionals in sectors like construction, delivery, and utilities. The hours spent in these vehicles performing various tasks can lead to discomfort and musculoskeletal issues without ergonomic intervention. A focus on ergonomic design and driver habits for effective movement with MoveSafe® exercise breaks can significantly impact driver well-being and operational productivity.

Key Ergonomic Solutions for Work Truck Tablet or Computer Use

Staying connected to work orders, dispatch notes, addresses, utility schematic software etc. often requires computers and centre-mounted computer stands. These setups have always been a challenge in work trucks as there always seems to be some amount of twisting required.

Research shows that placing devices closer to the steering wheel reduces low back and shoulder discomfort1. Try using tablets on the steering wheel with the help of an adjustable steering wheel tray. For laptops, the mounting system should allow for positioning the laptop as close to the steering wheel as possible. Scenarios C and D below show the optimal laptop positions for avoiding musculoskeletal discomfort1.

1. Saginus, K. A., Marklin, R. W., Seeley, P., Simoneau, G. G., & Freier, S. (2011). Biomechanical Effects of Mobile Computer Location in a Vehicle Cab. Human Factors, 53(5), 474-488. https://doi.org/10.1177/0018720811418111

Positioning Tip: If the centre console of the vehicle allows, try to pivot your buttocks to face the centre-mounted computer in a more squared-up posture (ie: hips and chest both facing the computer). This will reduce the degree of sustained rotation required within the spine and neck joints.

Seating Challenges

One of the most common seating issues found with fleet vehicles is when the seat pan cushion breaks down, creating a sinking effect that drops the hips significantly lower than the knees. This can result in the loss of the lumbar curvature and pressure on the hamstring muscles.

The best way to deal with this problem is to get the seat reupholstered with proper support in the back half of the seat pan. Interim solutions like incorporating a wedge cushion can also be effective. Be sure that the wedge cushion is made of high-density foam and will not deform easily for proper support. 

Slouched Posture While Driving

Forward head and slouched shoulder posture is a common habit that can have detrimental effects on your musculoskeletal health. Use the following ergonomic tips to help you improve your driving posture:

– Move your seat closer to the steering wheel and check that your backrest is not reclined beyond 10-15 degrees. Telescope your steering wheel out (if present, the release handle is on the underside of your steering column) to help your upper arm to position 20 degrees or less from the sides of your trunk. Your shoulder blades should anchor flat against your backrest to create optimal head and neck posture.

– Avoid gripping your steering wheel on the top half.  Consider your steering wheel as a clock face, keep your hands at 3 and 9 when driving in the city and at 4 and 8 when highway driving. This will drop your elbows close to your body and reduce muscle tension in the shoulders and neck.

MoveSafe Work Truck Set-Up

Strategies for Enhancing Ergonomics in Your Fleet

  1. Ergonomic Assessments: Regular vehicle setup ergonomic evaluations can identify areas for improvement based on driver feedback.
  2. Customization: Enhance comfort and efficiency by adapting vehicles to meet individual driver needs. Focus on adjustability if more than one operator uses the vehicle. Consider storage cabinets and tool organization standardization as well.
  3. Driver Education: Inform drivers about ergonomic adjustments to optimize driving posture and maximizes comfort.
  4. Maintenance: Keep seating and ergonomic features in optimal condition for sustained benefit.
  5. Leverage Technology: Invest in technology that supports ergonomics to further ease the physical and cognitive load on drivers.

Conclusion

Adopting ergonomic principles in work truck design is a strategic investment in driver health and operational success. By prioritizing ergonomic enhancements and engaging with driver education and feedback, fleet managers can foster a safer, more comfortable, and more productive work environment.

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