“The last thing we want to do is lose a driver over an uncomfortable seat,” said Foodliner’s maintenance director, Kyle Neumann. “Drivers aren’t bashful. If they’re uncomfortable, they’re going to let you know.”
Because seat comfortability is so important for a truck driver, as they spend most of their workday sitting in the cab of a truck, the latest, most innovative truck seats have been manufactured with upgraded materials, effective suspension, and more adjustability than ever in an effort to maximize a trucker’s overall comfort while on the job. Many fleets have even been utilizing methods of attracting and retaining new truck drivers such as advertising their high levels of cab comfort.
“That has driven us to constantly look at seats and make sure we’re staying ahead of the curve, so we’re giving them the best option that is out there,” Neumann added.
More engineering and science-backed analyses are what is pushing these new designs forward, said North American aftermarket business director for Sears Seating, John Duax.
“Not only does the seat have to be comfortable to the driver, but there also has to be some science behind it to eliminate a couple major issues prevalent in trucking for years–driver’s fatigue and lost time due to injury,” he added.
The design of truck seats has seen vast improvement in its evolution, and those changes are happening exceptionally quickly, explained Navistar’s chief technical engineer for human factors and ergonomics, Sandeep Premkumar.
“We now have more objective and subjective data around seat discomfort, seat materials have changed, new testing equipment and methods are being developed, seats have gotten better at isolating road inputs, and new functions have been added to sets,” Premkumar said.
Back pain and other issues have always been particularly prevalent in the trucking industry among drivers, so companies like A. Duie Pyle are careful to select the best seats possible that will boost the overall safety and wellbeing for a trucker.
“If I have a poor seat, it can lead to back injuries,” said the company’s vice president of fleet maintenance, Dan Carrano.
Until now, customized adjustments in regards to comfort and lumbar support weren’t as easily accessible as they are nowadays, Carrano added.
“You just had the air that would raise and lower the seat and the seat slide to move it up and back,” he said of previous seat models. Now, adjustments can be made within the seat base to lengthen or tilt it to fit any individual driver’s comfort preferences.
“Between the length of the seat cushion, the tilt of the seat cushion, and the lumbar support, the adjustability is pretty drastic,” he said
Additionally, with these new designs, body shapes and sizes of all truck drivers are able to be adapted to with the latest customizable adjustment capabilities–which can be especially helpful to female drivers.
“Female drivers have complained they can’t get up high enough to see over the hood,” said aftermarket sales manager at Seats Inc., Adam Lindloff. Now, “you can change the rake angle, which increases the hip point where the occupant is sitting. You’re sitting higher, but the position isn’t interfering with you getting to the pedals.”
Additionally, until recently, a majority of commercial vehicle cab design has focused upon ergonomics–the physical toll of a seat on a human body. Now, it’s become more widely accepted that the prioritized elements of a proper seat should accommodate all different postures and body types, and come equipped with fore-aft and up-down travel ranges, seat suspension, and adequate width and firmness.
“Macro trends such as automation, electrification, and connectivity are driving a lot of new technology into cabs and [are] introducing new ways for drivers to interact with vehicles,” and cognitive ergonomics is becoming much more widely adopted, Premkumar explained.
Companies like Navistar are now working to prioritize a driver’s cognitive, physical, and even emotional needs by determining which particular seat characteristics most affect a driver’s needs and experience. The company is also working to determine the performance targets, capabilities, and limitations of the most necessary aspects of an innovative seat design.
“The best defense [to a bumpy environment] can be found in a properly fit seat that removes vibration and increased comfort for the driver’s particular needs,” said Seat Specialists’ director of business development, Jennifer Ross.