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Fleet Management 101 – Cargo Handling Ergonomics

Fleet 101 Posted by Bill Womack, VP of Sales on November 9, 2016

Drivers are the life-force of your fleet. Keeping drivers happy and healthy is not only in everyone’s best interest, but it can actually increase productivity. So, it should come as no surprise that teaching, promoting and demonstrating proper ergonomics to your employees is a smart move. And, as there are quite a few scenarios for potential injury with manual materials handling, we’ve compiled a list for you of dos and don’ts when it comes to cargo handling ergonomics. 

Tips for sharing with drivers:  

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Bend down/over while standing in the bed to pick things up. Attempting to lift, push or pull equipment in this manner will put an unnecessary amount of stress on your lower back and shoulders. 


Either bend down, back straight, and lift with your legs, or use specifically fabricated work stations that act as compartmentalized drawers you can easily access while standing flat on the ground. 


Attempt to reach things too low or far into the bed or cargo van. You shouldn’t reach over the tailgate or bedrail of your pickup truck to lift heavy materials or equipment from the bed floor. Again, this will put stress on your lower back and shoulders. Also, don’t twist your body in any awkward positions that could cause stress along your spine. 


Try to organize materials and equipment ahead of time so that they are easily accessible and can be lifted from mid-body height. By keeping items at a mid-level, your body and joints are prevented from being bent, stretched and twisted in compromising positions. 

Tips for managers and owners: 

  • Encourage proper ergonomic practices
    • Don’t leave ergonomics as a handout or email you hope the drivers read; provide a demonstration, hire a specialist to give a presentation – find a way to stress the importance of it, and make it tangible
    • Be sure to update company policies/instructions on manual material handling
  • Evaluate the loading and unloading patterns
    • Encourage drivers to position frequently used items to be easily accessible; you can also add storage hooks or removable totes to these areas
    • Put processes in place to help with heavy equipment/materials; i.e. provide a low shelf for loading/unloading so drivers don’t have to pick things up from/put them down on the floor, reducing the amount of bending needed
  • Consider upfitting to serve ergonomics
    • High-roof vans are growing in popularity; one benefit is having a secure work bench inside, as this negates any need to drag it out and lift it back in between jobs
    • Stationary ladder racks are not ideal; consider an interior rack or drop-down system for easier unloading and loading because drivers can bring the rack to a comfortable height
    • Fold-out steps can be added to the cab, tailgate or cargo van to assist drivers who frequently need to get in and out of the vehicle; this eliminates climbing into the bed or cargo area, which can cause undue stress on a driver’s back, legs and shoulders

Try implementing these practices for better manual material handling within your fleet. Because fewer driver injuries result in fewer sick days, fewer light-duty assignments, and fewer scheduling headaches for management.

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