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Getting the right specs for driver comfort

Image: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

Whether you are buying, leasing or financing a new or used Class 8 vehicle, it is vital to understand all options and factors that go into ensuring that the truck is a fit for you or your fleet’s unique needs. 

According to American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) Trucking Activity Report, the annualized turnover rate at large truckload carriers jumped six points to 95% in 2018. The turnover rate at less-than-truckload carriers rose two points to 10%. At smaller truckload carriers, the turnover rate was 73%, but still seven points higher than the same period the year before. 

Hireright performed a study that evaluated the top nine reasons why truck drivers leave their jobs and the results stated that the reason for quitting for 37% of truck drivers was the lack of company benefits. Further, 21% of drivers said they left because of health issues associated with the trucking lifestyle. 

A list of the challenges mentioned in Workhounds’ study of “What Drivers Said in 2018” said, “Equipment decisions that appear to be made at the expense of driver comfort, safety, privacy and/or well-being are perceived very poorly by drivers.”

When it comes to selecting the right vehicle for your needs, it is important to know what options you have and how to pay attention to the driver’s satisfaction. In recent years, truck manufacturers have announced that they have paid closer attention to the driver in the design process. “If the latest Class 8 trucks on-highway models from truck manufacturers have one thing in common, it’s that the driver’s point of view was central to their design,” stated Seth Skydel from 

“I would never put a driver in a truck that I didn’t want to drive myself,” said Howard Sodano, CEO of HRS Transport, a trucking company in Warren Country, NJ. “Plus, I still drive. I never want to give that up. I know for a fact that there is less fatigue in driving the Kenworth T680. The truck is so quiet; it pulls better and drives nicer. At the end of the day, my drivers are not as fatigued.”

Sodano also specs a refrigerator, Sirius radio and the Kenworth Idle Management System (KIMS) for engine-off heating and cooling. 

One of the most important elements in designing a truck is to approach it as a driver would, according to Roy Horton, director of product strategies with Mack. “When it comes to safety, total cost of ownership, performance, productivity, driver comfort and satisfaction, Mack has your back,” Horton reported. 

One of the many popular specs chosen with Mack trucks, as confirmed by Horton, is the stand-up sleeper option. Mack offers the choice of a 70-inch stand-up sleeper or a 40-inch flat-top sleeper. According to Horton, having space in the cab for standing makes it possible for the driver to be able to move around more and feel comfortable in a spacious environment.

Further, Mack provides flexible sleeper storage configurations to ensure that the driver is able to feel clean and organized with space for everything that he/she needs on the road. Although seemingly small, Horton stated that it is the small details that are put into driver safety specs that have a large effect on the driver’s satisfaction. 

In addition to sleeper and storage space, many people look first to the seats in their vehicles. It is incredibly important that the spot a driver spends the majority of his/her time is comfortable. Kenworth offers many features to provide the most comfortable chair possible for today’s drivers.

“Since drivers spend so much of their time behind the wheel, fleets are becoming more aware of the importance of choosing premium seats,” said Kurt Swihart, Kenworth marketing director.  “Kenworth’s GT700 series of seats has an advanced height/weight independent suspension system. With this system, drivers get an optimal ride and will never bottom out regardless of their preferred height setting or their weight.”

Seats are an obvious necessity, but there are some specs that are often overlooked or underestimated. Jim Nachtman, heavy duty marketing director for Navistar, believes that some of the more popular driver items range from premium leather-wrapped steering wheels to even the smaller specs like extra USBs for charging electronic devices. 

As well as steering wheel options, Navistar offers a battery-powered no-idle system that allows drivers to get a more quiet and therefore restful night of sleep. Even the simplest options can make a huge impact on the driver fatigue and health. 

Whether it’s more comfortable seating options, a spacious standing sleeper cab, storage options, premium leather-wrapped steering wheels or USB charging options, there are hundreds of specs to choose from when it comes to customizing your Class 8. 

While more manufacturers today are designing with the driver in mind, it is very important to consider the most comfortable and satisfactory options for your truck. As Workhound stated, “Comforts, conveniences and top-quality tooling added to the trucks will pay for themselves quickly in happier drivers staying with the company.” 

One Comment

  1. Jenna Hunter

    My brother is thinking about getting an Isuzu seat for his truck. He would really like to get one from a professional. It was interteisng to learn about how to get the right specs for driver comfort.

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