In the driver's seat
The truck driver environment must be technically functional as well as comfortable, simple to use and easy to understand. To achieve these aims, Scania’s vehicle ergonomists work in three fields: biomechanics, macro-ergonomics and cognitive ergonomics.
TEXT: ANDERS NORDNER
A truck driver’s working environment, or driver station, is defined by such disparate elements as driving position, visibility, feedback from the vehicle and driver support systems and maintenance. The task of vehicle ergonomists is to create the best possible driver environment, based on these parameters.
Biomechanics is about such things as the shape of the driver’s seat and instrument panels, close-up vision, the placement and movement patterns of the gearshift, how the driver climbs into the cab and how the windows can be washed.
An ergonomic working environment
“Biomechanics is based on the human body,” says Hanna Johansson, head of the vehicle ergonomics team at Scania. “Pedals, seat and steering wheel must be mutually adjustable in order to ensure a good driving posture for all truck drivers.”
Truck drivers spend a lot of time in the cab, so it is important to envision it as a living environment. Macro-ergonomic aspects of this involve such things as beds, storage and working spaces.
“The immediate working environment is important. We group various functions together based on how often they are used,” Johansson says.
Challenges for vehicle ergonomists
Customer requirements and needs can vary enormously. The design of a cab has to function as well in the desert heat of Dubai as in the wintry chill of Russia. Vehicle ergonomists weigh customer requests in order to find a middle ground.
In addition to climate, the immense variety of vehicle applications must also be taken into account.
“It has to be just as easy for a truck driver steering a construction vehicle along a rutted track to push a button as it is for the driver of a distribution truck in urban traffic,” Johansson says.
Truck driver support systems
This brings vehicle ergonomists into the cognitive field, or communication between human beings and machines. Buttons, controls, instrument cluster, displays, visual signals and audio signals play a key role here. Equally important is the feel of buttons and controls − “haptics” in scientific language.
The biggest changes in vehicle ergonomics are in the field of man-machine interaction. More and more systems – navigation, fleet management and other support systems – are finding their way into the cab to ensure safe, efficient driving.
“The number of visual signals is approaching to reach the limit of what a person can safely handle without jeopardising road safety,” Johansson says.
To find alternatives, a project is currently under way to determine how audio signals can be combined with visual signals to help the driver.
Biomechanics is about finding a good driving posture for all truck drivers. This translates into the relationship between the location of pedals, seat and steering wheel.
Macro-ergonomic aspects concern the truck driver’s living environment and involve such things as beds, storage and working spaces.
Cognitive ergonomics concerns the man-machine interaction. Buttons, controls, instrument cluster, displays, visual signals and audio signals as well as the feel of buttons and controls play a key role.