More than half the truck drivers in Europe have problems with back, neck and shoulder pain, according to a study by Volvo Trucks. Volvo Dynamic Steering makes it possible to control a truck with minimal effort, reducing the risk of injury for the driver.
Long hours spent behind the wheel of a truck can give rise to unexpected concerns; from pain in the upper back to muscular problems. Enough to move over from driving a long-haul transport truck to a timber truck. The Dynamic Steering from Volvo is capable of enhancing safety and comfort, ensuring that problems with back, neck and shoulder are kept away. In a study by Volvo Trucks involving 160 truck drivers in Europe, over half complained of back, shoulder and neck pain. In the study conducted in 2011 and 2012, the majority of participants were men who drove long-haul operations. Another 2011 study by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work showed that 54 per cent of women and 37 per cent of men in the transport sector in Europe have muscular and skeletal problems, often concentrated in the backs, shoulders and necks of the drivers. Explains Peter Bark, who conducts research on health and safety issues at the Transport Research Institute, a research institute for transportation and logistics, “Tightening muscles in the arms and neck, together with repetitive movements put a large strain on certain muscle groups. Gripping the wheel hard when steering leads to even greater tension. Larger muscles like biceps are not as sensitive, but when tensing the forearm and certain muscles that connect to the fingers and hands, there is a risk of feeling fatigued. Tensing the shoulders also leads to fatigue, which can then spread to the back of the neck.”
The new Volvo Dynamic Steering greatly reduces the movements of the steering wheel, which would otherwise be created by road unevenness. It not only makes steering easier and more comfortable for the driver, it also impacts less on the muscles and joints in the long term. Driving at low speeds on normal roads with Volvo Dynamic Steering reduces the effort necessary to turn a steering wheel by approximately 75 per cent. When driving on rough roads it almost entirely reduces tremors, by 95-100 per cent. In combination with the automated I-Shift gearbox, it means that the pressure on the driver is massively reduced. Jonas Nordquist, Product Features and Profitability Manager at Volvo Trucks, says that the repetitive motion from road unevenness and from steering and shifting is the biggest cause of occupational injuries. “A road is never completely smooth, the body will shake with the motion. This creates what in ergonomics is called RSI – ‘Repetitive Strain Injury’. It is a wearing of the muscle, just like tennis elbow, for example,” he adds.
Volvo Dynamic Steering is based on a conventional mechanical steering system where a steering shaft links up to a steering gear. A hydraulic servo unit generates force that helps the driver turn the truck’s road wheels. In Volvo’s system an electronically controlled electric motor is added, which is attached to the steering shaft. This electric motor works together with the hydraulic power steering and is adjusted thousands of times per second by the electronic control unit. At low speeds, the electric motor adds extra force and at higher speeds, the electric motor automatically regulates the steering and compensates for irregularities that feed through to the steering wheel, caused for instance by side winds or bumps in the road surface.
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