Vehicle and Driver Ergonomics


Fig 1

The comfort and functional utility of a vehicle depends on its physical design in relation to the physical structure, biomechanics of the human body and mental disposition. Drivers interact with various elements in the vehicle (chairs and control panels) which may be harmful if performed or used wrongly.

Due to human variability, it is a known fact that one size cannot fit all, and so a good understanding of anthropometric application is key to vehicle design. A careful consideration should be given to the key constraints in designs e.g. Posture, Fit, Reach, Strength, inclusion, Clearance and Entrapment.

Understanding the diverse range of users with several types of capability losses as seen with the ageing work force gives a good guide on interventions for drivers. For example, in an aged society, where the majority of the driving population are older and many have reduced physical and mental capabilities, there is a need to ensure that vehicles are well designed so that people can engage with them. Waller et al (2013) make the case that understanding diversity and responding to this diversity with good design decisions is paramount for inclusive design. The automotive industry is therefore facing new challenges and one such challenge is determining the needs of older drivers, a new target population (Bhise, 2012)

What should drivers look for in a car?

Fig 2

In designing a Car Seat Checklist for drivers, a segmental evaluation of various elements a driver interacts with should be made, taking into account the suitability of the chair and the control panels. For work purposes, the vehicle must be made to fit the worker and not vice-versa. I have carefully highlighted some basic checklist as seen below.

Driving is an important activity for many people and helps keep independence in tasks such as travelling to and from work, shopping, attending the doctors’ surgery, visiting friends etc.(Musselwhite and Haddad, 2008).

In recent times, the vehicles are used for office work as we see with pharmaceutical sales reps, long distance drivers and haulage drivers.

The design of vehicles (e.g. rail vehicles, trams, buses, cars, delivery vehicles, vans) for city use requires a balance and careful considerations to fit, aesthetics, comfort and safety.

The steering wheel

  • Centrally located
  • Adjustable (in/out, up/down, tilt)
  • Doesn’t obstruct instruments

The pedals

  • Centrally positioned
  • Not ‘off-set’
  • Adequate spacing
  • Room to rest left foot

Headroom and head restraint

  • Check headroom
  • Head restraint near the top of the head
  • Head restraint close to the top of the head
  • Easy and intuitive to adjust (while driving?)

Seat adjustability

  • The more adjustable features, the greater the likelihood of achieving a comfortable posture

The easier and more intuitive to operate, the greater the likelihood of ‘using’ and therefore achieving ‘movement’…

For example, Audi A8….14-15 adjustments to make …before driving off!

Drivers should be encouraged to adopt a variety of ‘optimum’ postures and ‘movement’ where possible

The boot e.g. work tasks, storage, manual handling

  • Adequate boot space (for the job), easy access, appropriate sill height and depth, parcel shelf doesn’t obstruct, easy to open/close
  • Ensure storage of equipment in foot wells, front

Work tasks – constrained postures

  • Laptop use and paperwork tasks in the car – flexed, twisted spine assumed makes users susceptible to injury even if maintained for a short period of time. Sales reps are commonly seen assuming these awkward postures. Also, with the usual traffic gridlock as we find in Lagos, I see people use computers awkwardly.
  • Advise to find an alternative working environment away from the car where posture can be improved. There are attachable designs that can be used to complement Display Screen Equipment guidelines. Please consult an ergonomist for this…..

Driver specific training: stretches

I will assume that we are all aware of the consequences of assuming a static posture for a prolonged period of time. Also, drivers are exposed to some level of vibration and shaking. Exercises are recommended to improve and maintain the integrity of the body spine and musculoskeletal structures.

Driver specific training: car selection

Recommend drivers ask for long test drives

Select highly adjustable and easy to adjust driving packages

Check different models – market constantly changing – drivers vary in size/shape, type of work

Encourage drivers to carefully consider their work/leisure tasks when selecting a vehicle.

Training the trainers: Identifying who is at risk

All drivers

>all vehicles

  • Driving exposure (miles / hours)
  • Body part discomfort map
  • Working from the car e.g. laptop use, paperwork
  • manual handling
  • Lifestyle factors

Fig 3.

High exposure drivers

>25K miles/year or

>4 hours/day

E.g. Driver anthropometry

Driver posture

Driving workstation and seat design

Work tasks e.g. manual handling (REBA),

paperwork, laptop use


Urgent action drivers


i.e. severe pain /

medical history /



E.g. Additional training

Medical input

Reduced exposure to driving

Change of car and/or work tasks


Fig 4.


Durowoju Oluwatobi Solomon (CEO) (B. Physiotherapy, MSc Ergonomics, Member NSP, Member CIEHF) Email-, Web-
Phone number – +2349084670000 or +2348054382891