A new type of seat may lead to fewer cases of low back pain and other musculoskeletal disorders for truck drivers in the near future.
Researchers with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that a new “active” seat reduces truck drivers’ exposure to whole body vibration, which often leads to musculoskeletal disorders, including low back pain.
Current commercial truck seats use a seat suspension system, similar to a shock absorber in a car, according to NIOSH.
This prevention method reduces the vibration a driver feels from the road and the vehicle, but previous research showed these passive seats aren’t adequate protection against exposure to whole body vibration.
Responds to shock, adjusts accordingly
To address this problem, NIOSH researchers at Northeastern University evaluated the active seat – which uses an adaptive technology to respond to shock and change the seat’s performance according to the measured road conditions – with a new version of the standard passive seat.
The study, which was conducted between 2014 and 2018, included 135 truck drivers with an average age of 48 years old and an average tenure with their companies of about 12 years.
Participants completed surveys about their experience of low back pain and disability before using the seats and at five intervals over the following 24 months.
Researchers found the active seat reduced whole body vibration by about 50% when compared to the passive seat after 12 and 24 months of use.
Posture training impacted results
However, truckdrivers in both seats reported up to a 50% decrease in low back pain and disability, possibly because all of the drivers who participated in the study received training on proper seat adjustments.
That training may have led to better driving posture, which would reduce the risk for low back pain.
So the active seat can help, but further research is needed to see if a combination of training along with use of the active seat can reduce exposure further.