The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of FreightWaves.
For the first time in history, e-commerce is expected to crest 10% of total U.S. retail sales. U.S. consumers are expected to spend $586.92 billion on eCommerce in 2019, representing an increase of 14% vs. 2018, and 10.7% of total U.S. retail spending. This holiday season, the increased demand combined with shorter days and increasingly unpredictable severe weather patterns puts the employees of LTL carriers at a significant risk of developing a workplace injury.
LTL truck drivers are at particularly high risk for developing musculoskeletal injuries (MSD’s) because of the constant variability in load size and frequent stop requirements. These inherent factors are exacerbated by moving quickly to stay on schedule and trying to manage fatigue during an extended winter workday. Below are some helpful tips for keeping LTL drivers safe and productive during this peak holiday season.
Stepping Down to Safety
The simple act of exiting and entering a cab in a weak position can cause both immediate injury and chronic pain over time. On average, a local truck driver enters and exits the cab of a four-foot truck 20-30 times on a single workday. This routine action is the equivalent of climbing 30,000 feet a year or summiting Mt. Everest. When exiting the cab, drivers should be mindful to use three points of contact in order to ensure a soft landing (one hand placed on the door, one hand gripping the truck handle, and one leg firmly planted at all times). By exiting backward and using the three-point technique, drivers can remain in control and accurately gauge for icy, uneven ground.
Open with Caution
Maneuvering through unfamiliar territory with mixed freight can cause even the best-secured loads to shift and fall. LTL carriers should remain cautious when opening truck doors as loose freight can lead to serious injury. When operating trucks with roll-up doors, improper technique can lead to fatigue and strains from overexerting shoulders and arms. It’s important to be in a strong position in case the door is jammed and there’s unexpected additional resistance. Maintaining control of the door as it opens will also shield the driver from those falling, loose shipments.
When opening trucks that have a swing or “barn” door, drivers should unlatch slowly, and gauge for pressure. It’s important to use the swing door to separate the driver from the shipment. After the door has been completely opened, keep a safe distance from the truck doors and gauge the position of the contents. Once confident the shipment is secure, open the alternate side of the truck in the same fashion.
Unloading with Efficiency
When unloading a truck, drivers should remember to engage the larger muscles of the body for stronger, more controlled movement. Drivers should always keep the work close to the body, engage the abs, and keep the elbows in to protect the shoulders. If a driver finds themselves having to move loose freight from the floor to a pallet, they would be wise to keep their neck and back aligned, holding the merchandise close to the body and never letting their knees collapse inward.
Staying safe and avoiding injuries is most important during times of escalated pace and demand. With little margin for error, implementing a program that empowers drivers to move through everyday tasks in strong positions will increase productivity and make safety the ultimate tool for a successful holiday season.
John Leo Post is the co-founder and vice president of product for Worklete, a technology platform that reduces musculoskeletal injuries by 53% on average. A renowned movement expert, Post is driven by the mission to help workers in physically demanding live pain-free lives.