Every time you head out in your rig, you experience some whole body vibration (WBV), even if the road seems smooth. Whole body vibration occurs when your entire body is resting on and being supported by something that shakes, such as a vehicle or machine.
When this happens, the mechanical vibrations from the machine transmit throughout your body at various frequencies.
Studies show that prolonged and increased exposures to occupational WBV can lead to musculoskeletal or neurological disorders of the spine, as well as organ damage to your digestive, circulatory, urinary and (female) reproductive systems.
The effects of WBV are cumulative. Chronic occupational WBV exposure has also been linked to fatigue, insomnia, lower back pain, headache, vision problems, varicose veins, and irritation of the lung, abdomen and/or bladder. WBV can also increase your heart rate, oxygen uptake and respiratory rate, and can trigger changes in your blood and urine.
Although workers in the trucking, agriculture, construction, and/or mining industries are particularly affected by WBV, everyone who drives a car, takes a train, or rides a bus experiences some level of WVB. However, not all WBV exposure leads to serious issues. Short-term, low level vibrations may just trigger inconveniences like motion sickness or temporary poor posture. More serious issues arise when a person is exposed to severe, prolonged vibration.
As a trucker, you cannot eliminate all vibration from your workday, but you can reduce the severity of your exposure by making adjustments to your work experience.
First, if you are responsible for selecting equipment, proactively consider the types of activities and conditions the vehicle will be involved in and determine the best low-vibration options for the vehicle’s: age, type, design, condition, suspension system, lighting, visibility, seat positioning, and cab layout, design and orientation. Research the manufacturer’s vibration data; manufacturers and/or suppliers are excellent resources for ways to maintain equipment to reduce the effects of WBV on operators. By completing this initial due diligence, you might avoid future vibration-related health issues.
Next, maintain your rig. Keep your engine well tuned so it vibrates less. Monitor your suspension components to maximize their shock absorbency.
Look at the driver’s seat. Check the cushion to ensure it provides adequate support for you to easily retain proper posture and positioning. Choose a floating or air seat to reduce the impact of bumps and vibrations.
Review the manufacturer’s specs to make sure the seat is properly adjusted according to your weight and height. If the current seat is not recommended for the vibration characteristics of your rig and tasks, exchange it for a more suitable seat. As well, keep your tires inflated appropriately for the ground surface to ensure the smoothest ride possible.
For lift trucks, sweepers and other mobile equipment, replace solid tires before they reach their wear limits.
For off-road vehicles and mobile equipment, make use of these built-in features: seats with armrests and lumbar support, air-ride suspension and/or suspended cabs, and properly inflated tires.
As you drive, adopt a smooth, fluid style when steering, braking, accelerating, and shifting gears. When operating attached equipment, such as excavator buckets, avoid causing sudden jerks by minimizing solid contact with the ground.
As you know, one obvious contributing factor for WBV – external road conditions, is out of your control. Ideally, every entranceway, road and highway surface would be smooth and well maintained. But, that is not reality.
Since rough, bumpy roadways naturally increase WBV, try these strategies to reduce their impact. When you already know your route includes extended kilometers of construction and/or poorly maintained roads, find another route, if possible.
If rerouting is not possible, reduce speed to match the road conditions and decrease the severity of vibrations. Once you’ve passed a particularly rough stretch of road, pull over, get out of your rig and stretch to allow your body to recover.
Although in the trucking industry, there may be bumps along the road, you can avoid WBV conditions by reducing bad vibes.
Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant, and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.