Success Story: Improving Truck Cab Design

Aug 16th, 2017

At Anthrotech, we have a vast resume of working with many companies and government entities across varied industries. Occasionally, work for different projects overlaps, and that is the case with our work on truck driver anthropometry.

Our first experience measuring truck drivers took place in 2003 and 2004, and it was done for Navistar International, a truck, defense vehicle and bus manufacturer. In 2008, we completed a similar project for the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and an industry consortium. Both projects provided valuable information for truck cab designers looking to better accommodate U.S. drivers.

Project Origin

Both Navistar and NIOSH wanted to improve driver safety and design in truck cabs. Navistar wanted to gain a competitive edge in the marketplace by offering drivers a safer and more comfortable truck. If they could incorporate more accurate anthropometric data into their cab designs, they anticipated an increase in sales. NIOSH’s mission is workplace safety, and they wanted to find ways to improve truck cab safety —gathering anthropometric data was one way to accomplish that goal.  They subsequently made that data available to truck manufacturers. 

How Anthrotech Helped

Each project was a large undertaking, requiring hundreds of people and hundreds of hours of time. For Navistar, we measured 45 dimensions including the height, weight, shoulder height, chest dimensions, arm and leg lengths of 162 males and a few females in Pennsylvania and California. In addition, for the Navistar project, we used an adjustable truck cab mockup at the Pennsylvania location. With drivers in the mockup, we used a 3D coordinate measuring machine to locate specific body points in the cab space.

For the NIOSH project, we measured 1,950 people in 16 different locations across the U.S. For this project, we measured 34 dimensions, including height, weight, shoulder height, chest dimensions, and arm and leg lengths. A 3D body scanner was used in some locations, and that data was added to the traditionally-measured data.

Results

While a few years passed between the two projects, and each project had measurements from subjects from different states, the results of both projects were quite similar. That similarity validated our sampling plan, because it meant that we provided a true picture of U.S. truck drivers in general, regardless of their specific location.

Both studies showed that the range of body size variability was greater in truck drivers than in civilians in general. Truck drivers were generally heavier than civilians as a whole, and that was valuable information because this confirmed the anecdotal observation that in some cases, truck cabs were too small for drivers. While some trucking industry professionals already believed that truck drivers were likely larger than the general population, the magnitude of the difference was substantial and surprising for some.

We were intrigued to learn how many husband and wife teams were owner/operators in the trucking industry, and we found that the women truck drivers were small, compared to the general population.  The male drivers, on the other hand were larger than the general population. This data highlighted the difficult challenge for cab designers looking to accommodate both males and females.

After their study, Navistar incorporated the results into their next generation truck designs, providing better-fitting cabs for their customers. As for NIOSH, they made the results available to truck manufacturers, enabling improved cab safety across U.S. fleets.

Truck drivers spend numerous hours behind the wheel, and for many, that workspace begins to feel like home. Because of this, safety and comfort is of the utmost importance. We are happy to have participated in both projects to help make their workspace a little safer and more comfortable for these hard-working drivers.

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