More than two-thirds (70%) of van drivers have taken time off work due to back pain according to a report by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.
Poor seat adjustment could be to blame for triggering back issues, especially as many drivers spend up to seven hours a day in their vans.
The motor manufacturer teamed up with the British Chiropractic Association for a day’s testing spent at Cordwallis Van Centre, Heathrow. They discovered that even though half of the 500 van drivers tested said they had adjusted their seat, two-thirds were still sitting incorrectly or missing important steps with many committing the common mistake of positioning the seat too close to the steering wheel and angling the seat too far back.
Drivers who suffer from so called ‘Builder’s Back’ take an average of three weeks off work and the resulting downtime costs companies an estimated £500 a day per van.
It really pays to get to know your van and learn how to adjust your seat, that way you can avoid long-term muscle, joint and spinal injuries
Poor posture and being in a fixed position for an extended period can have a negative impact on your back.
Prab Chandhok, chiropractor and member of the BCA, said: “Many people now point to driving as a trigger for their back or neck pain, so it’s really important that your van is set up properly for your needs, to help ease the strain that driving – especially for long periods of time – can have on your back and neck.
“The key thing to remember is that there is no single seat that is perfect for everyone, so it’s practical to test the seat out fully before you buy a new vehicle. The more adjustable it is the better.”
Sarah Cox, head of marketing at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, said: “Labourers commonly suffer from ‘Builder’s Back’ for a variety of reasons but poor seating position can often be overlooked.
“Our research made it evident that the majority of drivers don’t adjust their seats correctly. The effect of this is not only causing over two-thirds of van drivers to suffer from back pain but also hits the UK economy with up to £21bn in opportunity cost.
“We were delighted the BCA were on hand to help us during our testing at the Cordwallis Van Centre and to provide us with some top tips to ensure drivers are able to understand the correct way to adjust their seats and avoid back pain.
Seven Tips to Adjust Your Seat
Height: Your thighs should be as parallel to the floor as your seat will allow, and where possible try to get your hips higher than your knees. You should also adjust the thigh support if you have one to ensure you have the maximum surface of your thighs touching the seat.
Pedals: You should be able to push the pedals to the floor with a bend in your knees.
110°: Bring your seat all the way up so it’s straight and then take it back until you are comfortable whilst maintaining a 110-degree angle between your back and thighs.
Lumbar Support: The lumbar support should be adjusted so you can feel it support the hollow in your back but so it’s not causing your spine to arch more than is normal for you.
Head Restraint: The height and angle of your head restraint should be adjusted so you can feel the centre of the support touch the middle of the back of your head, although it does not need to be touching at all times
Steering Wheel: Once in correct seating position, bring your arm up in front of you and position the centre of the steering wheel to be in line with the fold of your wrist.
Rear Mirror: Lift up your chest by five degrees and then adjust your mirrors to help stay in an upright position on long drives.