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Bose Seats For Semi Trucks – The importance of greater comfort for long-haul truck drivers has been recognized by an unlikely supplier. By Freddie Holmes
In a business where uptime is of the utmost importance, any downtime sets off the warning lights for long-haul fleet operators.
Bose Seats For Semi Trucks
A study conducted by members of the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) has found that exposure to impact and shaking has a significant impact on driver fatigue and pain, which is a major contributor to downtime, especially in an industry that is struggling to recruit and retain drivers. OEMs are developing trucks that help fleet operators achieve high fuel economy, but challenges remain in maintaining efficient operations. In short, this means more downtime, lower incomes and a sector that struggles to keep drivers behind the wheel.
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The cabin is the driver’s office, workplace and home. For the average commuter in passenger cars, traffic noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) is in most cases nothing more than a nuisance, but for long-distance truck drivers traveling day and night, it can be dangerous. In fact, according to Forbes, long-distance truck driving is one of the ten most dangerous jobs in the US. The combination of long working hours, fast turnaround times and the stress of operating heavy machinery all contribute to the ranking.
The health of drivers is becoming an increasingly important topic. To address this problem, a new under-seat suspension system has been developed by Bose, a company best known as a supplier of high-quality sound systems. The suspension technology – which completely replaces a traditional truck seat – counteracts vibrations from the road surface. Driving quality is improved by responding to changing road conditions and by continuously analyzing road forces and counteracting these vibrations before the driver can feel them.
Why did a supplier that mainly develops audio equipment produce a vibration-dampening seat for trucks? Mike Rosen, General Manager of Bose Ride Systems, explained to Megatrends that “deep expertise in electromagnetic motion control is part of how we create our speaker systems. This knowledge was used in the development of the Bose Ride system and its regenerative electromagnetic motor.”
In the early 1980s, company founder Dr. Amar Bose, with research into automotive suspension systems using electromagnetic technologies. In 1994, the company expanded this research in an effort to solve the problem of vibration and jerking that plagues heavy truck drivers. The first generation of the system was introduced five years ago and was updated earlier in 2015.
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A conventional air-suspension truck seat is replaced with a third-party Bose suspension base and seat top to protect drivers from shock and vibration caused by the road surface. The system achieves this by detecting, analyzing and counteracting the forces of the road. “As a result, it has been proven to dramatically reduce the fatigue and pain experienced every day by heavy truck drivers,” Rosen explains.
“Truck drivers spend around 11 hours a day on the road and suffer a journey far worse than that of a passenger car,” he added. “Even with the best conventional air suspension seats, these drivers experience constant vibrations, bumps and shocks – a form of so-called ‘whole body vibration’ (WBV).”
Independent scientific research has shown that WBV can increase fatigue, strain the driver’s spine and body, and drastically reduce comfort levels. Rosen believes these issues contribute to many of the transportation industry’s challenges, including driver losses, reduced driver productivity, increased healthcare costs and safety concerns. In short, these are “factors that influence and disrupt business.”
Keeping drivers healthy and happy behind the wheel has become increasingly important to the fleet economy. Industry analysts have evaluated the effect of poor health on driver performance using median days away from work (DAFW). Truck drivers missed 19 DAFW in 2012; that was the third highest of all occupations and resulted in an estimated annual loss of revenue for the sector of $1.4 billion.
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Known for its high-quality audio technology, Bose has used its knowledge of waves and vibrations to develop a truck driver seating system proven to dramatically reduce the fatigue and pain experienced every day by heavy truck drivers.
Moreover, drivers not only take vacation days, but some do not even return to work at all. According to TCA’s report, there are currently 25,000 unfilled truck driving jobs nationwide in the US. Truck fleets “strive to retain experienced drivers,” the report notes, as despite upfront investments, 39% of new drivers leave the industry after 90 days.
Rosen – along with fleet managers who have integrated the new system – hopes Bose Ride can help get drivers back into the role, and so far there have been positive results. In addition to OEM installation in new Volvo trucks in North America, Daimler Trucks North America recently announced that the system is available factory open in Freightliner Cascadia and Cascadia Evolution models.
OEMs clearly see the potential benefits of increased ride comfort, but how significant are these improvements? In a recent fleet study of heavy truck drivers using the Bose Ride system, participants experienced a dramatic reduction in fatigue and pain as a result of using the product. “They told us they felt safer, took fewer breaks, recovered faster at home and expected to have a longer driving career,” Rosen noted.
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The statistics speak for themselves: of drivers who report fatigue and back pain severe enough to interfere with their work, 97% report reduced back pain and 94% report reduced fatigue. Nearly 90% of drivers expected a longer driving career as a result of using the system, and 71% said they felt they would drive more safely overall.
The system was originally developed for the heavy-duty truck industry after Bose recognized that shock and vibration problems are significantly greater in heavy-duty trucks than in cars. As for whether there is an opportunity to bring this technology to the passenger car market, Rosen confirmed that “it could be brought to other markets in the future,” as the technology has made significant progress since its initial focus on truck market.
This article appeared in the Q2 2015 issue of Automotive Megatrends Magazine. Follow this link to download the full song.
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Work continues on that suspension and Bose expects it to go into production. But what if a vehicle has only one occupant? In that case, operating just the driver’s seat would provide similar driving benefits. That’s the idea behind the Bose Ride system, which the company launched this year for Class 8 trucks (GVWR above 33,000 pounds).
A heavy suspension designed to handle all those kilos of truck and trailer is at odds with driving comfort. That’s why most big rig drivers sit on seats with their own air suspension. Although these do provide some insulation, they only respond to hooking, so they constantly bounce the driver up and down. Not only is this inconvenient, but according to the Department of Labor, truck drivers have the second highest number of days absent from work – three times the national average – due to injury or illness. Some blame this absenteeism on sitting in a constantly heaving saddle for up to 11 hours a day.
Being able to respond quickly is critical for the 180-pound Bose seat construction. That’s why the data from the seat position sensor and two three-axis accelerometers is processed 2,000 times per second – twice as fast as in other high-tech cars. systems such as stability control or magnetorheological shocks. And if necessary, the electric motor can shoot the chair through its four inches of suspension travel in just a tenth of a second and with a force of up to 250 pounds. The mechanism moves so fast that, if programmed so, it can literally reproduce music with its up and down movements.
So the system has an enormous power requirement, is that correct? Well, the electric motor draws a whopping 3,500 watts, but the instantaneous power is provided by energy stored in a quarter-farad capacitor – that’s a big one – to prevent the chair from using the standard 12-volt electronics of the truck overloaded. To avoid constant power draw from the motor, the Bose seat uses an air spring to maintain the base ride height for drivers weighing up to 350 pounds.
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But the system’s real trick is to respond proportionately: it must immediately decide how to compensate for the traffic disruption the truck faces. Developing the control algorithms took Bose about 25 years, much of which overlapped with automotive suspension
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