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Seats in commercial vehiclesPrint

Ergonomic seating comfort in light commercial vehicles

Ergonomic vehicle seats that optimally adapt to the body are the dream of any driver who spends several hours behind the wheel of a van or light truck every day. They envy the trend that has been evident in the passenger vehicle segment for some time: Seats with a solid framework and a backrest of sufficient height, various adjustment possibilities for optimal adaptation of the seat and therefore a comfortable sitting position, making longer drives bearable. Yet the requirements for a good seat in a van or light truck are virtually identical. The elevated sitting position demands somewhat different settings, but the requirements for the adjustment possibilities are the same.

Back pain caused by inadequate commercial vehicle seats

Light commercial vehicles such as vans or light trucks are true all-rounders and steadily gaining popularity. Their reputation of usefulness is well deserved. Thanks to their spaciousness, they offer solutions for a wide variety of transport tasks. The problem is that, as the number of vehicles increases, so does the number of people sitting behind a steering wheel – not necessarily in a back-friendly position. Sitting incorrectly for hours has consequences for your health. The list of possible impairments is long, ranging from back pain to tense muscles, neck complaints, fatigue and discomfort in the legs to should pain, difficulty concentrating and headaches. Tradespeople, construction workers, parcel delivery drivers and couriers are also affected. They too have to cover many kilometres daily in their jobs to get to their customers or changing work sites.

More movement even while driving

Yet there is a solution to this problem, since the automobile industry meanwhile offers back-friendly seats for vans and light trucks as well. They meet all ergonomic requirements. Firm seat padding is important to support the body and for anatomically correct sitting. The shape of the backrest plays a crucial role as well. An S-shape like that of the spine itself should be apparent when viewed from the side. That is not only back friendly but also makes for a much safer driving experience. A four-way lordosis support is especially important. This is an inflatable bulge in the area of the lower spine, which is adjustable forwards and backwards as well as up and down. That is important since all people are different and everyone needs individual support. Movement is also important for back health, even when sitting down. Naturally, standing up on occasion is not possible in a vehicle, unlike in the office. But even small changes to the sitting position provide relief. Slightly adjusting the four-way lordosis support and backrest angle makes this possible on long trips. A power-adjustable backrest is ideal.

What makes vehicle seats the most back friendly

Normal headrests or headrests integrated into the upholstery may be found in commercial vehicles, depending on the vehicle type and options. Both have to be sufficiently high to ensure safe positioning at the back of the head. The distance between the headrest and back of the head should not exceed three centimetres. A separate seat suspension enhances the driver’s comfort considerably. It cushions impacts, for example due to bumps in the road or on construction sites.

Adaptable to the body height

Individual seat height adjustment is another key requirement for ergonomic driving in a van or light truck. Orthopaedists and anatomists know: The closer the seat is to being horizontal, the better the pelvis position and alignment of the spine. What’s more, optimal sitting is only possible if the seat angle is adjustable for ideal thigh support. Seat depth adjustment ensures that the thigh is almost entirely supported, even for tall drivers, optimising the distribution of sitting pressure. If you have ever sat in an ergonomic vehicle seat, you know to appreciate it.

Less perspiration, greater well-being

Seat heating, a ventilation system and climate-friendly upholstery materials on vehicle seats are also beneficial. They can make driving much more comfortable, especially over longer distances. A driver who feels good is fitter and safer on the road. Excessive perspiration while driving is also a danger for the back. If you are sweaty when you get out of your vehicle, draughts can quickly chill your lower back. That leads to tense muscles and an elevated risk of lumbago.

Checklist

  • The seat must have a solid framework. That improves safety and is essential for spine-friendly sitting. Excessively soft material cannot provide enough support.
  • A spine-friendly shape of the backrest and foam components along with a sufficient backrest height are essential (backrest height = shoulder height). Your back should not be higher than the backrest. A slight S-shape must be discernible from the side.
  • Lateral supports on the seat cushion and backrest (side bolsters) ensure a safe driving experience and provide the driver with sufficient support.
  • Comprehensive, individual support for the lumbar spine area has to be provided by a four-way lordosis (forward and backward, up and down) or iliac crest support (inflatable bulge in the lower part of the backrest). Support is provided mainly on the upper, rear iliac crest (waistline). Slightly altering the support and backrest angle while driving is recommended, especially on long trips. Regular exercise breaks are even more important. They help the driver relax and prevent signs of fatigue.
  • The headrest height must be sufficiently adjustable or (in case of headrests integrated into the upholstery), adequately high. The headrest adjustment range has to allow correct and therefore safe positioning of the headrest relative to the back of the head: Top of headrest = top of head, distance between headrest and back of the head 3 cm max. The headrest is for safety only and should not be used to support the head while driving, since dangerous signs of fatigue such as microsleep may develop (only applies for the driver).
  • Individual seat height adjustment is absolutely essential. It ensures that the field of vision is close to the same for all drivers.
  • The angle adjustment of the seat bottom ensures correct thigh support. Adequate adjustment of the overall seat length is required.
  • The adjustable seat bottom length (seat depth) enables correct adjustment to the driver’s thigh length, thereby optimising the sitting pressure distribution. The better the sitting pressure is distributed across the buttocks and thigh supports, the more comfortable driving will be – especially over longer distances. Complete thigh support is optimal, ensuring that the front edge of the seat does not cause uncomfortable pressure in the hollow of the knee.
  • An optimal sitting climate can be achieved through a combination of seat heating, a ventilation system and climate-friendly upholstery materials.

Minimum requirements

  • Spine-friendly, solid framework
  • Adequate dimensions (backrest height, headrest, seat bottom)
  • Seat height adjustment
  • Seat angle adjustment
  • Seat length adjustment
  • Seat bottom depth adjustment
  • Optimal headrest adjustment
  • Four-way lordosis support
  • Control elements easy to reach while driving

Also appropriate

  • Climate control package (seat heat/ventilation)
  • Upper seat back adjustment
  • Massage function
  • Comfort headrest
  • Memory function
  • Separate seat damping

Products in this sector with the AGR seal of approval

Manufacturer

Daimler AG*
Daimler Customer Assistance Center N.V.
Postbox 1456
6201 BL Maastricht
NETHERLANDS
Tel. 00800/17 77 77 77
Fax +49 69/95 30 72 55
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 www.mercedes-benz.com

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles**
30419 Hannover
GERMANY
Phone +49 1802/865 579 243 6
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.volkswagen-commercial-vehicles.com

Further information

Correctly adjusted car seat

Besides poor ergonomic quality of car seats, another frequent cause for backache and tension when driving the car is the wrong sitting posture. For an orthopaedically correct sitting posture, the car seat has to be carefully adjusted. In turn, this means it needs to have the characteristics and functions detailed above.

Ideal adjustment of your car seat:

  1. Move your buttocks right up against the backrest of the seat. Now adjust your seat so that your legs are at a slight angle when you floor the pedals.
  2. The tilt of the backrest must allow you to hold the steering wheel with your arms at a slight angle. To achieve this, adjust the backrest to an angle of about 110 degrees. Make sure that your shoulders remain in contact with the backrest even when steering.
  3. If the backrest has a head adjustment, only change this if the normal shape of the backrest does not give your shoulders enough support. Less is more in this context.
  4. Now select the right seat height for you. Sit as high as possible, while still leaving a hand's breadth of space between your head and the roofliner.
  5. Adjust the seat tilt so that your thighs rest gently on the seat surface and you can floor the pedals without having to apply too much force.
  6. After adjusting the seat length, you should still be able to fit 2 to 3 fingers between the front edge of the seat and the back of your knees.
  7. Adjust the headrest so that it protects your head but does not support your neck. If the setting of the headrest is too low, this can cause severe injuries to the head and cervical spine in the event of a rear-impact crash. Ideal: upper edge headrest = top of the head.
  8. If the backrest and seat surface have adjustable side supports, ensure that these are in gentle contact with the body without being constrictive.
  9. The natural shape of your lumbar spine is supported by the lordosis support. Always adjust this from bottom to top. The pelvis (belt line) is the most important area for support.

Check all the settings again in the same order. Then the seat will fit correctly.

Remember:

  • Only a rested car driver drives safely.
  • After ninety minutes or at the latest 2 hours behind the steering wheel, it is vital to take a break to give body and mind a chance to regenerate and exercise.
  • Even the best car seat is just one component on your journey to a back-friendly everyday life.
  • The position and adjustment of the seat can change the perspective for people wearing multi- or bifocal glasses, with a negative impact on their eyesight.

Pictures

Significance of the car seat

One seat for all people?

Chain of angles

Downloads and Links

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