Spec’ing for ergonomics

I recently visited with L. Ritchie Cartage, a 40-odd-truck fleet out of Scarborough that initially caught my eye because they run a well-kept fleet of city and highway tractors that I encounter pretty much every day on my commute. I love the red and black paint scheme and the classic styling of the fleet, which is comprised mostly of Western Stars.
It’s always interesting to visit trucking companies on their own turf to see what makes them unique. For a relatively small operation, L. Ritchie Cartage is surprisingly sophisticated when it comes to spec’ing equipment. The carrier has taken a strong interest in spec’ing ergonomic equipment that’s user friendly for drivers.
Sylvia Rhodes, president of L. Ritchie, told me her interest in ergonomics was piqued when the company was invited to participate in a study on the subject with WSIB and the Centre of Research Expertise for Musculoskeletal Disorders (try saying that one five times fast). The study eventually helped shape current requirements for ergonomic workplaces.
Some of the things that factor into equipment spec’ing decisions include: alignment of the steering wheel in relation to the driver’s seat; placement of grab handles; force required to crank up trailer legs; force required to secure trailer doors; location of cup holders; and dash layout.
Watch as Sylvia describes ergonomic requirements in her own words:

As you may have noticed in the video, L. Ritchie is also spec’ing automated transmissions, which is a curious spec’ on a classic-styled long-nose like the Western Star, yet no doubt a driver-friendly option. Think of the force that’s required to work the clutch on any given day, especially on the company’s city trucks. While the cup holders may seem to be a good reach from the driver’s seat, another consideration is what happens in the event of a spill? In this instance, at least the driver is unlikely to be burnt shall his cup floweth over.
As Sylvia mentions in the video, ergonomics, in L. Ritchie’s case, are enough to sway a purchasing decision from one brand of equipment to another. The emphasis on ergonomics seems to have translated to a very low turnover rate, at least among the carrier’s longest serving drivers, some of whom measure their years with the company in decades – not years.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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