A recent study conducted in southern Ontario shows that truck drivers experience regular occupational pain and discomfort. It also underscores the need to find solutions to a very real problem that is often not discussed. The fact is that driving a truck for a living can be an uncomfortable experience over the long haul.
According to the study, some 57% of truck drivers routinely experience some level of musculoskeletal pain or discomfort. The causes of the pain and discomfort include prolonged sitting, repetitive motion, road vibration, heavy lifting, and being confined to awkward postures for hours at a time. That says nothing of the potential of injuring oneself during loading and unloading.
So what can be done to change things? Experts say the industry should be looking at a combination of things, starting with the equipment truck drivers work with.
More Driver Friendly Equipment
The most important piece of equipment to the truck driver is the truck itself. Fortunately, today’s trucks are a lot more ergonomic than their first-generation predecessors. But there is still room for improvement. For example, seats can be redesigned to absorb even more road vibration. Dashboards can be redesigned to be more ergonomic.
Outside the truck, drivers rely on things like truck tarps and ratchet straps to keep their cargo secure. The industry could develop lighter truck tarps along with winch straps that are easier to deploy. Tarps made with lightweight parachute material immediately come to mind.
Mytee Products, an Ohio company that sells cargo control equipment to truck drivers, says the parachute tarp is considerably lighter than its vinyl and canvas cousins. It is stronger too, so it serves the dual purpose of being easier to deploy and more protective. You can’t go wrong with that.
Safer Work Techniques
Next, the industry needs to develop safer working techniques and then teach those techniques to drivers. For example, one of the biggest sources of injury among truck drivers is having to climb atop their loads to deploy tarps and straps. There have to be better ways.
Teaching drivers how to avoid the risks of dangerous techniques should simultaneously reduce the injuries related to those techniques. New work techniques could address everything from lifting heavy tarps to deploying those tarps under windy conditions.
Automation Where Possible
Hand-in-hand with safer work techniques is the idea of automating as much of the cargo control process as possible. For example, automatic tarping systems already exist. The machines can simultaneously unfold a truck tarp and lay it across the back of the trailer, eliminating the need for a truck driver to climb on top.
Diet and Exercise
Last but not least, experts say that poor diets and the lack of exercise makes truck drivers more susceptible to musculoskeletal injuries and general pain. They say that improving a trucker’s overall health can go a long way toward alleviating any potential discomfort.
This is a nice way of saying that drivers need to start eating better and getting daily exercise. For some, that may mean learning how to cook on the road rather than continually eating at truck stops and diners. It may mean spending less time watching television in the sleeper and more time jogging, riding a bicycle, or working out with weights.
Those of us who have never driven truck for a living have probably never stopped to think about how uncomfortable the job can be. But according to the recent study, pain and discomfort are a big problem for truck drivers. Now that we know, we can start working on ways to fix it.