Like many people, school bus drivers spend a considerable amount of time in their workspace. How these workers differ from others is that school bus drivers’ workspaces are very small, and they are required to stay seated for hours at a time. In addition, these professionals are carrying what many consider to be the most precious of cargo – children – so safety is of the utmost importance.
In 1999, Navistar International, a company that manufactures trucks and buses of all kinds, had anecdotal evidence that their bus driver workspace did not fit the full range of bus driver anthropometry. At the time, there was no publicly-available bus driver anthropometric data. Company leaders wanted to learn details about the bodies of their user population so they could improve the design of their school buses for the future. So, they reached out to Anthrotech for help.
How Anthrotech Helped
For this measurement project, we wanted to make sure we had a large enough sample to accurately reflect the population of school bus drivers. As a result, we measured more than 1,450 drivers in six different geographic locations to ensure our results were inclusive for all genders, ages and races of school bus drivers. In total, we took 34 measurements, with the ones that were most important for this particular project being:
- Forearm-Forearm Breadth
- Stomach Height, Sitting
- Abdominal Depth
- Shoulder (Bideltoid) Breadth
- Thigh Clearance
- Hip Breadth, Sitting
After analyzing the measurements, we were able to find areas where the Navistar school bus design could use improvement.
Originally, the cabs had been designed with male drivers in mind, but the majority of school bus drivers were, in fact, women, so there were some mis-fits. Most important, many women were too short to comfortably reach the pedals needed to drive the bus. In fact, one woman we measured had strapped wooden blocks to the pedals of the bus in order to reach them (which is clearly not recommended or safe).
The bus cab had also been designed for drivers who weighed less than the actual user population. Many bus drivers had stomachs that were larger than the average population, but the existing workspace didn’t have an adjustable steering wheel. At least one person we measured had worn spots on his shirts where his stomach was rubbing against the steering wheel.
As a result of our findings, Navistar was able to utilize its new, proprietary resource to make changes that increase the comfort and safety of school buses it designed.
The company added adjustability to the driver’s seat to better fit drivers with larger abdomens on one hand, and shorter legs on the other. Consequently, drivers who were shorter had an easier time reaching the pedals by adjusting the seat down, and drivers who had larger abdomens could adjust the seat back in order to provide more space.
One interesting note about this project is the fact that it was very proactive on the part of Navistar. Company leaders wanted to make sure bus drivers were comfortable in their workspace and well accounted for, even though bus drivers don’t actually make the decision about what brand of the bus they will drive; that’s typically the Transportation Director or district Superintendent. Navistar knew that the end user’s experience would matter even if they weren’t the purchase decision makers because ultimately, a more comfortable driver is a safer driver. By proactively working to make their product as safe and comfortable as possible for the people who will actually be driving the vehicles, Navistar is ensuring customer satisfaction and children’s safety for decades to come.