The other 8 hours.
Designing for truck driver's comfort.
The capstone class of my Masters program was the Integrated Product Development course. A one-year class that walked us through the complete product development cycle.
My team and I were challenged with coming with a solution to ensure a truck designed for the American market would be successfully received in a developing country. The problem can be tackled from many different angles, but we found that one of the main causes for potential rejection was the length of the truck.
Our initial research showed us that local laws limiting the overall length of the truck created a bias towards cab-over trucks (flat noses) since the bed could be from a couple of inches to several feet longer, and therefore the amount of cargo hauled be significantly larger, when compared to a long-nose truck (classic American).
Additional research helped us learn that the majority of the cargo hauled in the target country was hauled between the two largest cities, 1000 miles away from each other, which demanded a cab that allowed the driver to bring his whole life with him and provided him with all the comfort he needed.
Our initial exploration revolved around minimizing the volume of the cab while maximizing both the storage space and driver's comfort. Our ideation process helped us define a sub 30" cab that had more space for both the driver and his belongings than a 72" traditional cab.
We created high quality sketches to help communicate the idea with the customer and obtain feedback that was quickly incorporated into three different concepts.
We then created three scaled prototypes, one for each concept, and used them to receive user feedback during hands-on interviews with truck drivers from both the American and target markets. This invaluable feedback enabled us to narrow down our concepts to one finalist and to refine it to include the features that were considered critical by the drivers.
During the interviews we were able to step into their trucks and learn more about their habits. We learned that every available inch can and will be used as storage, and we were able to better understand their lifestyle and their requirements. We learned that drivers are mostly lone-wolves. And we learned they have three distinct modes of operation: Driving, Working and Resting.
We built a low fidelity, full-scale model of the cab so we could clearly understand the space constrains and ergonomics of such environment, and it enabled us to further refine the concept by rearranging and redesigning some of the features we had included.
The final concept consisted of a cab that can be transformed to suit the needs of each of the driver's modes:
- Driving mode: Provides easy, arm-reach access to essentials while driving and sufficient walking space to get in and out of the truck by sacrificing the mostly unused passenger's seat.
- Working mode: A secondary seating space and a working desk pop-up in the area that would traditionally be occupied by the empty passenger's seat to allow the driver to fill up his paperwork and driving logs. The desk is also a hidden storage space with safety locks and power plugs to allow the driver to store a laptop and connect all his electronics.
- Resting mode: Once working mode is off, the cab is transformed into a room that provides the driver with a bed that can be lifted to expose storage space for his clothes, toiletries, food and other supplies.
These three different, driver activity-matching cab modes, allow the driver to have more comfort while driving, be more productive while working, and forget about work when he wants to relax. It fulfills the user needs for comfort and accommodates his lifestyle. And since it's a sub 30" cab, the overall length of the trailer truck is equivalent to that of a cab-over, allowing for max cargo.
The concept was received with great success by both the target market and the project sponsor.