The National Academies

TCRP G-17 [Active]

Assessing Lifecycle and Human Costs of Bus Operator Workstation Design and Components

  Project Data
Funds: $250,000
Staff Responsibility: Stephan A. Parker
Research Agency: The Pennsylvania State University
Principal Investigator: Matthew Parkinson
Effective Date: 7/17/2018
Completion Date: 3/31/2023

The job of bus operator is among the least healthy job classifications, as described by Bushnell, Li, and Landau (2011). Costs to public transportation agencies are high and the human costs are considerable. Employee time loss at public transportation agencies is significantly higher than for the average in the U.S. working population. The bus operator environment is integral to health. Musculoskeletal problems, such as low back pain or wrist, elbow, and shoulder pain, are endemic in public transportation. Newer “active” systems for seating and steering, however, can reduce these problems, as described by Gregersen (2015), and there have been significant changes in the designs of critical systems for bus operator workstations, such as seats, pedals, and steering. The industry has great need for guidance in understanding, evaluating, and implementing options for improving operator health while reducing time loss, injury, disability, and external liability.
TCRP Report 25: Bus Operator Workstation Evaluation and Design Guidelines was published in 1997. Its partial update, TCRP Report 185: Bus Operator Workstation Design for Improving Occupational Health and Safety was published in 2016 and revisited the packaging of the driver’s workstation. Additional research is needed on critical systems such as seats, pedals, and steering to inform specifications and procurements. Audiences for this work include transit agencies, the public transportation industry, regulators, and labor; specifically, safety committees, risk and safety managers, chief engineers, and directors of maintenance at transit agencies that oversee specifications for procurements; human resources departments; writers of specifications for contracted services;  APTA committees and programs; manufacturers; and suppliers.
The objective of this research is to assess bus operator workstation technologies that improve bus operator health and well-being and reduce external risk. This project will (1) develop and (2) demonstrate a user-friendly toolkit for evaluating equipment within the bus operator workstation.
The research will supplement the work of TCRP Report 25 and TCRP Report 185, covering progress in the engineering of seats, steering, pedals, and controls where significant advances have been shown to reduce injuries, reduce costs, and improve safety performance. The toolkit will allow a user to (1) assess bus operator workstation options available and (2) calculate the effects of those options on driver safety and health, the effective work tenure of drivers, crash rates (e.g., visual obstructions such as pillar design and mirror placement), and costs over the lifetime of equipment (i.e., lifecycle costs).
Research should consider
  • Relative health and turnover rate of current bus operator populations (compared with other occupations);
  • Features of the workstation that would most improve health, well-being, and performance, considering the attributes of the bus operator population (e.g., control efforts such as foot-pounds of effort for turning can be tuned to prevent the occurrence of new injuries and minimize aggravation of existing injuries);
  • Evaluation of components in isolation and in the context of the workstation envelope;
  • Performance implications to the safe and efficient operation of the vehicle (e.g., dwell time and customer service implications);
  • Effective international practices;
  • Standards (and other processes for evaluating technologies) that could be framed as models for agencies examining future evolutions of systems; and 
  • Applicability and maturity of information on key standards (e.g., benchmarks for control efforts of workstation hardware) and recommendations for follow-up research to address priority areas.
An interim report at the end of Phase I should identify demonstration options for working prototype installations that can be carried out with available project funding and those requiring additional resources.
In Phase II, it is anticipated that one or more demonstrations applying the draft toolkit would take place at the APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference or like events.
The research plan shall be divided into tasks and shall describe in detail the work proposed in each task. The research plan shall describe appropriate deliverables that include, but are not limited to, the following (which also represent key project milestones):
  • An interim report and in-person presentation at a panel meeting. The panel meeting will take place after the contractor has delivered an interim report presenting the results of the early tasks. The interim report and panel meeting should occur after the expenditure of about 40 percent of the project budget.
  • Draft final deliverables to include outreach visuals, as appropriate, and a stand-alone technical memorandum titled “Implementation of Research Findings and Products.” 
  • Final deliverables.
The schedule should include 2 months for panel review of the interim report and 3 months for panel review and for contractor revision of the preliminary draft final deliverables. The research plan may include additional deliverables as well as additional panel meetings via teleconferences.
 Useful resources for this project include:
This research addresses heavy-duty, standard transit vehicles, generally 30 to 60 feet in length. 
Research in progress. A draft final report is anticipated in October 2022.

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