A weblog dedicated to Ergonomics education, dicussion and debate. This emerging field has the power to transform industry, business and the lives of ordinary people for the better. The Industrial Athlete intends to encourage and document our profession's vision of an ergonomically-friendly future!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Response To Case Study #2: Long-Haul Truck Driver

It took a while, but I have finally settled back into a working routine here in Edmonton.

Last week, a case study was posted on long-haul truck driving: here are some suggestions, based on the identified trouble spots.

Problem #1 -- Boring drives

For many drivers, terrain can be monotonous and boring, causing alertness to wane, thus increasing the chances of an accident occurring. Air flow, music in the cab, and caffeinated beverages (within reason) all help to maintain attention, as does regular rest breaks for 10 minutes every hour or two.

Problem #2 -- Old truck seat

Old seats may lack proper support for the back, and may transmit vibration readily. Obtaining a truck seat that has a lumbar support will allow the lower back to maintain its natural curve, reducing the static forces that punish the back during prolonged sitting. Seats with bases that absorb vibration readily should be a requirement for any new seat that is purchased.

Problem #3 -- Whole body vibration

Many trucks, especially older ones, will vibrate in the cab due to the power of the engine and the truck's suspension. Keeping the truck maintained and in good working order will reduce the amount of vibration that is generated by the truck. Adopting the chair suggested in the previous recommendation will further reduce the amount of vibration that the driver is exposed to throughout their trips.

Problem #4 -- Light glare

Directly or indirectly, sun glare can blind a driver at critical times, potentially leading to a serious accident. Use of sunglasses and sun blinds can reduce the effects of glare if driving cannot be avoided. Ideally, time where the sun is low in the sky could be used as napping time for the driver, avoiding the blinding light of dusk or dawn while increasing alertness through proper rest.

Problem #5 -- Sore Hands and wrists

Over long periods of time on the road, hands and wrists can become sore from continuous soft tissue compression from contact with the wheel, and inadequate blood flow to and from the hand due to prolonged wrist extension. By softening the surface of the wheel, tissue compression is reduced. Backing the truck seat away from the wheel so that the wrist is no longer in extension is also a possibility that should be explored. Finally, change the position of the hands and wrists on the wheel periodically to promote dynamic blood flow.

Problem #6 -- Unfit worker

Due to the sendentary nature of the job, as well as the large food portions at meals that are traditionally had by truck drivers, the drivers are often out of shape. Because of this, their energy levels degrade over time, contributing to fatigue, which increases the risk of accidents. Instituting a wellness program, where proper nutrition is emphasized, as well as the importance of at least 30 minutes of everyday physical activities a day, will increase energy available to the driver, reducing the chances of an incident occurring from fatigue.


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