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Radu APOSTU

FLAWS IN ERGONOMISC FOR HEAVY DUTY TRUCK CABINS

Abstract: the purpose for this article is to raise awareness among heavy vehicle manufacturers to the
mistakes that are made in design and ergonomics of their produces. Also, it is an accumulation of needs
that the modern long haul driver has.
Keywords: ergonomics, long haulage, trucking.

1. INTRODUCTION
In the field of road transportation, very important
factor amongst heavy duty truck drivers in choosing a
certain vehicle is represented by the comfort that can be
provided for the user. In spite of the general opinion that
one such job presumes a lowered degree of physical
effort, real situations show the contrary. Truck drivers
that are used to work related issues often accuse both
physical and mental fatigue due to long working hours
and an improper seating position or poor ergonomics of
the entire cabin.
Moreover, it is habit for truck drivers to spend their
free time within the cabin, or even sleeping in the
accommodation provided, thus making the choice of the
cabin critical for the good development of their work
day.
Thus, an thorough study of the problem is necessary,
leading to the following study of their habits and most
common situations faced.
2. COMMON PROBLEMS WHEN DRIVING
First order of business that must be taken into
consideration is the size of the cabin itself. So, once a
complete study of the type of transportation that is
needed to be done with said truck, the cabin will be
chosen accordingly, with the right size and fittings. the
range of cabins on the market vary from short cabs, for
day use, fitted with only two seats and generally with a
raised middle section between the two, to local and
national distribution cabins, which are considered day
cabins still, but which have a small bed behind the two
seats for occasional periods of resting, mainly when the
driver has to spend the night on the road, and needs to
sleep somewhere.
The most common type of cabin is the one used for
international transportation, type of job that implies
driving for long periods of time, generally more that 7
working days is the so called night cabin, which are more
generous in inside space, have two full sized beds behind

the driver's seat and, occasionally purpose made areas for


day to day activities.

Fig 1 Types of cabins available

It is for this type of cabins where the first fault in


ergonomics can be found, more specifically in the middle
section of the cabin that is, in most cases, raised and does
not provide a flat, accessible space.
Such mistakes are made because the main focus
in designing a cabin is to have a low ceiling, which
translates into good aerodynamics which, in result, turns
into good fuel economy.
Such structural modifications have a very negative
effect on the possibility that the driver can adjust the
driving position in correlation to the speed of the vehicle,
road conditions, thus resulting in excessive fatigue and
loss of concentration.
A simple solution for the problem in hand would be
raising the level of the entire cabin floor and shaping its
upper side in correlation to the aerodynamics involved.
Also, some modifications are required to the placement
of the two beds that are generally one above another,
more specifically lowering the two to cabin floor height.

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Flaws in ergonomisc for heavy duty truck cabins

Fig 2 Aerodynamic cabin

Another issue that must be taken into consideration


from the ergonomic point of view, is the placement of the
gear lever, which, in general, is placed directly on the
floor of the cabin too far back for the position of the
driver's seat. This situation results in poor accessibility to
the lever and poor operability, correlated with the need of
frequent use may cause muscular akes along with back
injuries to the driver. These happen especially when
tackling rough road surfaces while having very heavy
loads.

for operating it. Another big plus of this solution would


be the fact that the driver will have sufficient space in
situations when he needs to move around the cabin or
when taking breaks from work related activities.
Whilst moving, when the driver has to be able to be
focused, he must not be distracted by other elements or
components that he must use. Some switches or buttons,
such as the ones for the radio or CB functions, are flawed
from the ergonomists point of view, because, while
operating, they distract the driver from the main focus,
driving. One of the most frequent operations that a truck
driver does while driving, is operating the CB radio
functions of the truck. This command unit is placed
generally above the windshield on the driver's side.
Along with the movement needed to take the microphone
from it's dock, it generally results in distraction of
the driver from the road conditions, a very dangerous
situation if operating a heavy duty tractor truck.

Fig 4 Placement of the CB radio commands

Fig 3 Placement of the gear lever

One solution to the problem could be placing the gear


lever on the central console, which will considerably
shorten the size of the lever and the necessary maneuvers
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The simple solution would be integrating such


functions into the stereo system and placing the
commands for it on the steering wheel. This will result in
more space in the cabin, because there will be no more
wires going across the windshield. Furthermore, because
the microphone will be installed in the ceiling of the
cabin, the function cab be used even when the driver is in
one of the beds, resting, without him having to leave the
bed.
These improvements that can be made with minimal
costs to the production of one new vehicle are the most
important ones that can make a difference for the driver
while driving.

Flaws in ergonomisc for heavy duty truck cabins


3. COMMON PROBLEMS WHILE IDLING
Taking into consideration the periods when the
vehicle is stationary, there are some elements that need
improvements and that will result in lower risks of
injuries and improved comfort.

generally hard to reach and to get into or out of. The bed
is generally placed at a height of over 1,3 meters and
does not have any system of ladder. A cheap solution,
along with the ease of implementation, would be placing
folding steps into the lateral wall of the cabin, or on the
central console. The space between the door and where
the beds start would be more than enough to
accommodate such steps. As for the central console, the
material of which is built is easily strong enough to
support most drivers. Another very elegant solution
would be making a mechanism to fold the upper part of
the driver's and the passenger's seat to fold and create a
surface that could help with access into the bedding area.
Such simple solutions could greatly reduce injuries that
happen when trying to get into or out of beds and
especially when the driver has not an athletic posture or
necessary skills.

Fig 5 Resting areas

It is a very well known fact that a well rested driver is


more prudent while driving and is the main focus point
when attempting to achieve good fuel milage. This
means that one of the most important areas for resting
will be the bedding area.

Fig 7 Access to bedding area

Fig 6 Ergonomic resting area

Nevertheless, manufacturers fail to come up with


efficient solutions for placing and operating the two beds,
that, most of times, are placed one above another and
have folding mechanisms. While for the lower bed big
improvements can not be made, the upper bunk is

Turning the focus on the resting area, several flaws


in design can be found as well. While sleeping, in cold
external weather, the driver needs to stay warm. This is
done with the help of a night heater that generally can be
operated from the dashboard. As a result, the driver has
no control when in bed. The simple solution could be
fitting the cabin with a system that can maintain a steady
temperature, set previously by the user. This way, once
the driver has chosen the right climate for the interior of
the truck, he can rest without having to adjust according
to outside temperature's variations.
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Flaws in ergonomisc for heavy duty truck cabins


Another problem while in bed for the driver is
operating the stereo system of the truck. It is a
pleasurable way of spending one's free time, and drivers
often fall asleep in their beds with the stereo turned on.
The most simple solution to this problem would be fitting
the cabin with a remote control for all de functions such
as radio, navigation or illumination.
Another area where the heavy duty truck driver has to
operate is in the close proximity of the truck, where they
must be able to reach storage spaces for tools and
auxiliaries.
They have to do daily checks to the tires, semi-trailer,
body of the truck, oil or couple semi-trailers.
Fig. 9 Manikin sitting positions

The figure 9 [1] shows the driver in sitting position


while driving. The manikin, that was chosen for the
analysis is of 50th percentile. The data those were
considered are of drivers anthropometric data.The upper
berd can be folded at that time and thus four people can
sit in the cabin including driver. The figure 10 [3] shows
the sleeping position of the people in the cabin.
Arrangement for sleeping is made for two people. There
are two beds, lower bed and upper bed. The upper bed is
hold by chain hanging from the top.

Fig 8 Acces to storage spaces

In some cases, these storage spaces are placed


between the steps made for accessing the cabin. These
steps are made from steel and are very deep into the body
of the cabin. This results in very small angles for
accessing she storage spaces. The ideal solution for this
problem could be placing storage spaces far back in the
southern body of the truck, as access panels that can be
operated both from outside the cabin and from the inside.
A mandatory requirement for these storage spaces would
be to never exceed the average driver's shoulder's height
of 1,5 meters.
4. CONCLUSIONS AND DISCUSSIONS
Different Positions of a manikin inside the cabin
are shown in the picture below:

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Fig 10 Manikin sleeping position

REFERENCES
[1] Dalela, S. (1999). Text Book of Work Study and
Ergonomics. University of Roorkee, Roorkee. 5th
Edition.
[2] Hedge, A. (2000). RULA Assessment worksheet.
Cornell University. Ithaca, NY.
[3] Bots, H., Buffinga, J. (2000). Design Patterns in
Automotive Design: A Behavioral Study. Technical
Report IDE 350.
Author:
Radu Apostu Master student at the Faculty of Aerospace
Engineering, Descriptive Geometry and Engineering Graphics
Department, Bucharest. Email: integrale_awd@yahoo.com

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