A tough reality in the trucking profession is the requirement to be sedentary for the majority of time spent on the job. The average trucker works either 60 hours over the course of seven days or 70 hours over the course of eight days. While drivers cannot work more than 14 hours straight, 11 of those hours can be spent driving—resulting in well over 40 hours a week sitting behind the wheel.
The driver’s seat as a maintenance item
Remaining seated for long periods of time is harsh on the body, but even more so when proper support is not provided. Even when new, original equipment manufacturer (OEM) seats don’t have the best support, and what’s there decreases as the seat ages. Musculoskeletal disorders and soft tissue injuries can result, and these ailments are worsened by the physical exertion associated with the job. The resulting sprains, muscle pulls, and body aches will put a driver out of work.
In fact, a survey of long-haul truck drivers conducted by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that the most common types of truck driver injuries are sprains and strains, and that over half of those injured on the job required time away from work. Considering that one-in-five reported injuries are neck or back related, providing truckers with a supportive driver seat can make a significant difference and potentially reduce driver turnover by decreasing the risk of injury.
Truck drivers and owners understand the importance of regular maintenance and repair to mechanical systems. It’s also time to start paying attention to the driver’s seat as an important wear item that requires regular inspection, repair, and replacement. Investment in the seating ‘system’ makes good sense compared to the alternative scenario of drivers who become unavailable due to seat-related injuries.
Variables to consider in a replacement seat
Semi-truck seats are “suspension seats”: they move up and down to help quell impacts from bumps. A scissor-type mechanism in the frame makes that allowance, with excess movement dampened by a built-in shock absorber. Most OEM seats are manufactured with the minimum: low seatbacks, narrow cushions, vinyl upholstery, and little adjustability. None of this is great for comfort or support over the long haul. However, the aftermarket offers a variety of upgraded seats which can improve on all these factors.
Keep these factors in mind when making your selection:
- Cab height: The truck cab’s height is an important deciding factor. A taller space equals more choice. If the space is there, a taller seat frame gives you the advantage of more vertical seat travel. Ample headroom also means more room for a high-back seat. Both of these give the driver greater comfort and support.
- Cushion firmness: Some people wrongly presume that soft and plush equals greater comfort, but that softness will not provide adequate support in the long-term. Firmer cushions are still comfortable and are more supportive to a driver who remains in the same seated position for long stretches of time.
- Isolators cure rocking: Isolators control back-and-forth movement, or rocking, when the truck is accelerating and braking. Isolators are mounted in the seat base, and typically include a lock-out lever if the driver wishes to temporarily disable this function under certain driving conditions.
- Even more options: One obvious choice is different upholstery material (cloth, vinyl, leather), depending on your preference and budget. Depending on seat model, you might also be able to choose among additional comfort options like more extensive tilt and recline angles, seat heaters, massagers, larger or tilting headrests, and adjustable lumbar support.
Whichever seat you choose, remember that the comfort, support, and safety of the driver are paramount. Keeping drivers alert and injury-free helps keep them happy and productive and mitigates any concerns about cost. A quality aftermarket semi-truck driver’s seat is a win-win for all concerned.
This article was originally posted by American Trucker.