Fleets looking to improve their bottom line and embrace comforts have gravitated toward automated manual transmissions. So much so that 85 percent of all new Volvo trucks leave the assembly line with one installed.
“What we’ve seen and what I’ve experienced is there’s less wear and tear on the body,” Stadler says, “but also mentally you’re not having to prepare for that next change of shifting when traffic conditions change.”
Fully automated, clutch pedal-free shifting, allows drivers to focus on the road, rather than which gear they need to be in adds Stu Russoli, Mack Trucks’ highway product manager.
That leads to reduced fatigue, as drivers no longer have to row through the gears. “And mDRIVE makes it simpler and less intimidating for new drivers to become experienced drivers, which is definitely more driver friendly,” Russoli adds.
Freightliner and Navistar, each of which are building updated trucks in the months ahead, added a one-piece windshield to their new units along with eliminating the vent window from the doors – moves aimed at boosting visibility.
Denny Mooney, Navistar senior vice president of global product development, also says the company redesigned the mirrors on its new LT Series to allow the driver to turn their head 15 percent less on the driver’s side and 5 percent less on the passenger side.
“It may not sound like a lot but after 11 hours of driving and turning your head, it is a ton of driver fatigue,” Sass says.
Kenneth Stiltner, a driver for 37 years who currently drives a ProStar for Baltimore, Md.-based Cowan Systems, says the new mirror was among his favorite innovations on the International truck that will eventually succeed the ProStar as the company’s flagship on-highway product.
“I don’t have to go looking for what I want to see,” he says. “It’s right there. Putting the gauges where they should be makes a big difference when you’re driving a truck.”
Hummer specs air release fifth wheels, eliminating the need to manually pull out the fifth wheel handle and protecting his drivers’ elbows and backs but the body isn’t the only thing than can get battered around after half a day on the highway.
Back pain is not uncommon for career drivers and Jason Rhoads, director of marketing for Minimizer, says much of that can be traced back to a seat’s inability to dampen vibration from the chassis.
“Studies have shown that exposure to whole-body vibration is associated with several adverse health outcomes,” he says. “Low-back pain, and driver fatigue were of the utmost concern when developing our 14 standard features to fit every body type.”
Minimizer’s Long Haul Series seats can be spec’d from the manufacturer and, Rhoads says, they reduce the potential for vibration related musculoskeletal disorders among truck drivers.
“We also built in a revitalizer that stimulates blood flow to the lower extremities rejuvenating the legs, ankles, feet before de-cabbing the vehicle,” he adds.
Mental fatigue is also something Hummer has looked to improve with his truck specs by including things like AMTs – which he says will be a standard spec going forward – Bendix’s Wingman System, hood mirrors and bullbars.
“Those are all safety things for the driver,” he says. “It keeps them a little safer and offers some peace of mind.”