When you spend the better part of a day behind the wheel of a tow truck, it’s important to be comfortable. Being comfortable reduces the chance of injury and muscle strain. One way to ensure that you’re comfortable is to be aware of tow truck ergonomics. Ergonomics is basically adjusting the workplace to the body to put less strain on joints, muscles, and bones. The goal is to make your tow truck or wrecker as ergonomic as possible to reduce the likelihood of getting hurt or experiencing soreness. Neck pain, back pain, sore muscles and joints, and carpal tunnel can all result from poor ergonomics, and if you’re in pain, your full attention isn’t on the road and you’re a distracted driver – although unintentionally so. We’ve got some tips to help you put some ergonomics in place in your workstation.
1. Adjust your seat and mirrors so you don’t have to strain.
Your seat should be adjusted so that you can comfortably reach the gas, brakes, and clutch. Your legs shouldn’t have to scrunch or stretch to reach. The same goes for your mirrors – you shouldn’t have to crane your neck or turn awkwardly to get a clear view of the road. Spend some time to move your seat and mirrors so that they’re properly positioned. And don’t forget your headrest – the top of your head should rest against the top of the headrest. If you’re comfortable, you can concentrate on driving defensively.
2. Don’t grip the steering wheel too tightly.
There’s no need to strangle the steering wheel. Relax your grip a little so that you don’t put unnecessary strain on your hands and arms. Holding the wheel too tight can also cause decreased blood flow. Make sure to move your hands and stretch your fingers, too.
3. Sit properly.
Your entire back should touch the back of the seat – don’t hunch forward or lean towards the wheel. Your knees should be one inch over the edge of the seat and your thighs should rest on the cushion. If your seatbelt is rubbing or pinching, try padding it with some foam. The importance of seatbelts can’t be overstated. Also, take everything out of your pockets – wallets and such can press on your legs and interfere with circulation.
4. Drive a tow truck that’s the right size for you.
A smaller driver might struggle to reach the pedals and hold the wheel of a big tow truck, while a tall driver might have to squish their legs into a smaller tow truck. Either of these scenarios can cause muscle strain, so be sure that your tow truck or wrecker fits you.
5. Watch out for mobile computer equipment in the truck.
Having computers and other electronics in the cab of the tow truck is pretty commonplace nowadays, but having small keyboards and computers can cause injuries from having to contort and strain to use them. There might not be proper support for the arms and wrists, either, which is problematic. In fact, carpal tunnel has been on the rise among tow truck and wrecker drivers – it’s not just office folks anymore.
The problem with turning the cab of a tow truck into a computer station is that there’s limited room to begin with. Adding computer equipment makes the space even more confining, which isn’t good for tow truck drivers. There’s just not enough room to use the computer without straining in some way. Do whatever you can to reduce the strain on your body when it comes to sharing your cab with a computer.
6. Address areas of discomfort.
If there’s any part of the tow truck cab that causes you pain or soreness, try to find a way to fix it. You might have to open the manual to figure out what ergonomic features the tow truck already has and how to use them properly. For example, you may have to lower or raise the seat. You might have to move the steering wheel up or down. Find out how you can fit the cab to you. Consider checking that your wrecker is adjusted properly when you’re doing a pre-trip vehicle inspection.
7. Support your back.
If you experience lower back pain, you may need to get a lumbar pillow or roll up a blanket to give your back some support. Spending long hours driving can be hard on your spine and back.
8. Don’t hop down from the cab.
Don’t get in the habit of jumping down from the tow truck. Yes, it might look cool, but it can cause spine issues as your body absorbs the impact. Plus, slips and falls are always a hazard when jumping is involved. Use the safety features that are provided, such as the running board and handles to get down from the cab.
As you can see, it’s important to put ergonomics into practice before you fire up your tow truck and head out to a job. Like we said earlier, being comfortable will help you keep your attention safely on the road – if you’re in pain, you’re distracted. Ergonomics can help you stay safe while driving and help you avoid injury. It will also help you be happier while at work and more focused on the job at hand. Yes, you have a tight schedule to keep, but take some time to take care of your body and health. It’s well worth it.
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Padilla, Maria T. “Reduce Injuries and Costs with Tow Truck Ergonomics.” Tow
Times, Oct. 2017, pp. 45-46.