More than eight out of 10 truck drivers suffer pain, mostly in their backs and necks, according to a new Volvo Trucks survey. Some hurt so badly they even consider quitting their jobs. To raise awareness of this problem, Volvo Trucks hired a highly experienced and respected chiropractor, YouTube star Dr. Beau Hightower, to set up a mobile clinic at a busy truck stop in New Mexico.
“Dr. Beau” normally spends his days treating muscular mixed martial arts (MMA) athletes who are highly in tune with their bodies’ aches and injuries. On this day, however, his challenge was to work with truck drivers who are often reluctant to talk openly about their pain.
In a short video documenting the experience, called “Neck Cracking,” drivers line up outside the mobile clinic. The camera lingers on several faces as Dr. Beau administers bone-cracking treatments. The transformation from agony to relief is clear as Dr. Beau attacks these drivers’ pain by hammering a chiropractic chisel into their backs, conducting his professional treatment.
“These professional drivers are pushing their bodies to the limit,” Hightower says. “Over time they can develop serious muscular imbalances which creates bone problems. They can have nerve issues where they start to lose the feeling in their hands, and headaches could start showing up. It’s very important that we get these people, who are the backbone of our economy, the care and improved driving technology they need.”
DRIVERS IN PAIN
Keeping drivers healthy and comfortable in safe working conditions is more important than ever. The world depends more and more on trucking as the overall demand for transportation increases, boosted by amongst other things, increased e-commerce. At the same time, the industry faces a driver shortage as older drivers retire and younger recruits choose other professions.
Back and neck pain is one reason drivers leave the industry prematurely or often have to call in sick to work.
In the recent survey commissioned by Volvo Trucks, more than 80% of professional drivers say they experience pain in their backs, necks, and arms due to the long hours behind the wheel, bad road conditions, and vibrations in the trucks’ steering. Still driving despite the pain, the majority try to exercise regularly and see a doctor for their problems, but four out of 10 question if they are able to continue working as truck drivers.
A lot of driver discomfort is preventable with better truck design and supporting features. For years, trucks were built primarily for utility, not comfort. Today, the cab design is much more about the drivers’ needs, including ergonomic seats and better tilt-steering options that make driving a truck less tiring and stressful on the body.
HOW VOLVO HELPS
A big step was taken when Volvo Trucks’ best-in-class automated transmission, I-Shift, was introduced in January 2007. I-Shift helps drivers remove the shoulder-wrenching work of shifting heavy gears. Now, Volvo Trucks has introduced Volvo Dynamic Steering (VDS) in North America, which makes driving a truck even more like driving a car.
“Previously, steering a truck was hard work. All the bumps and potholes on the road were transferred right up the steering column and absorbed into the body, with the driver having to constantly counter-steer to keep the truck safely on track,” says Fredrik Klevenfeldt, director of brand and marketing communications at Volvo Trucks North America. “Constantly fighting wind shear wore on shoulder and wrist joints. In addition, the static forces of heavy loads at low speeds meant really wrestling with the steering wheel. Volvo Dynamic Steering significantly improves all of those issues.”
VDS specifically improves the overall driving experience through increased safety, comfort and reduced fatigue for drivers. The VDS system reads inputs from the steering wheel up to 2,000 times per second and supplies power from an electric motor to compensate for outside forces, such as unevenness in the road surface and vibration in the steering wheel.
When driving at low speeds in reverse or close-quarter maneuvering, steering wheel resistance is reduced by 85%. The steering wheel also automatically returns to center as soon as the driver’s grip on the wheel lightens, enabling less repetitive turning of the steering wheel. When driving at higher speeds, VDS helps the truck maintain direction even on poor surfaces and in strong side winds.
“One of main benefits of VDS is to help drivers minimize and mitigate the fatigue they experience after driving for long periods,” Klevenfeldt says. “It’s part of Volvo Trucks’ continuing effort to help drivers be safer and more comfortable, and it’s a game-changer. VDS is the only system of its kind in North America, and it’s going to make a huge difference for drivers carrying out the demanding job of delivering goods and services across North America.”
Find out more, visit www.volvotrucks.us.
Photo and video courtesy of Volvo