One of the top five reasons a person will see a doctor these days is due to back pain or related ergonomic issues. Truck and other drivers run an exceptionally high risk of suffering back, neck, and shoulder pain. They also may experience leg, foot, and hand cramps.
When sitting in the same position for long periods of time with minimal but repetitive movement, truck driver ergonomics plays a key role in reducing risk and eliminating some of these issues.
What is Ergonomics?
Quite simply, it’s the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment. It takes into consideration a person’s physical needs and how to fit, adjust, or arrange their surroundings for a better and safer set of conditions.
Truck drivers should take extra care in ensuring they’re doing all they can to prevent physical injury or pain and can do so by keeping a few things in mind and making small and reasonable adjustments to how they drive. Learning about truck driver seat ergonomics can help drivers to reduce their workplace injuries.
Don’t Wait Until Your Body Talks
Why wait until you begin to feel the pain to make a change? Be proactive and vary your seat position slightly every 30 to 60 minutes to equally distribute the stress across your body. This way no one area is taking all the pressure. Consider using a gel seat cushion if your truck vibrates too much to reduce impact.
Change the hand positions on your steering wheel frequently and don’t squeeze harder than necessary. This will reduce the stress points on your hands and give them a chance to rest. You can even use a steering wheel cover for better comfort and to avoid the extreme heat and cold of the steering wheel.
Adjust Your Seat
As opposed to some chairs or seats, you have the added advantage of adjusting yours to better assist with these ergonomic needs.
Make sure your knees do not come above your hips. The front of the seat should not touch the back of your knees. Incorrectly positioned seats can cause you to slide forward into a rounded posture, putting unnecessary added pressure on your back.
Confirm that you can depress pedals all the way without twisting your back or moving away from your seat. Consider using special seat cushions that give lumbar support for driving and provide additional gentle support to this sensitive area of your body.
Recline your chair back slightly, so the angle between the back and legs is at about a 110-degree angle, keeping in mind you should still be able to slightly shift your body often but in staying close to this position.
Other In-Cab Considerations
See to it that you position your steering wheel to keep elbows as close to your sides as possible. They should be in a relaxed position, not tucked too far in out flared out from your body. This will help minimize reach or overextension of your elbows and wrists.
Be sure as you make these adjustments, all instrumentation you need to keep an eye on is easy to see. This way you can ensure you will not be straining or twisting your neck to do so.
When You Step Outside
Stepping out of the cab to stretch your legs is extremely important. Take care not to go straight from the prolonged sitting position to a lifting or bending position right away. Take a few minutes in-between to stretch and let your body breath. You can use this time to complete paperwork or speak with the client.
Avoid twisting your back at all costs. When getting in and out of your truck, turn your body first and then step up or down. When lifting objects, turn with your feet, instead of twisting your spine.
Be considerate of the weather. Moving from a warm interior temperature such as inside your truck cab, into cold outside temperatures can cause muscles to stiffen. Stiff muscles can cause you to be at a higher risk for injury when you do lift objects. Make sure you're dressed reasonably for weather conditions or keep a jacket or vest close by.
Wearing gloves can help protect the hands from the cold as well, which will reduce the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
Keeping your body hydrated is key. Your muscles need water and the proper nutrients to function and heal. When considering any new or different dietary goals, it’s always best to consult a nutritionist to make sure you’re getting what you need to reach your goals.
An exercise regimen that includes plenty of stretching is important. Cardio workouts to maintain heart health and work out the muscles you don’t use at work strong are essential for an overall healthier body. Of course, any intense or new exercise regimen should always be discussed with your doctor first.
If you do find yourself experiencing any pain, don’t ignore it. Aches or pains in the wrists, shoulders, hips, knees, back, or neck could continue to get worse if overlooked. Consulting your doctor or seeing a chiropractor regularly can prevent small injuries or pains from getting worse.
A healthy driver is a happy driver, so do your part to stay that way!