Cranking landing gear on a tractor is a common task for truck drivers yet, if not done properly, it can result in severe pain or injury. So, what is the best way to reduce pain and injury related to landing gear cranking?
Unfortunately, there has never been a definitive guide to cranking. Truck drivers have had to rely on training and hand-me-down knowledge from other truck drivers and fleet managers. By not knowing the tried-and-true way to crank landing gear, many truck drivers have become susceptible to injury.
Fortunately, people are on the case. The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries recently set out to create a guide to cranking. They wanted to ensure truck drivers had access to a best practices guide that would help prevent injury. So, they teamed up with researchers from North Carolina State University to design a landing gear mock-up and measured range of motion and muscle activity when volunteer truck drivers utilized the crank.
Obviously, raising the trailer will create a greater resistance level for the truck driver. When raising the landing gear, the researchers found that the most ideal position for truck drivers when operating the crank is to stand parallel to the trailer with the trailer to their side. Operating the crank in this position allows the truck driver to utilize the full strength of their body and decreases the amount of overall strain.
When lowering the landing gear, the best position was facing the trailer, as opposed to being parallel to it. The reason behind this lies in the range of motion used. When a truck driver is facing the trailer and crank, they are essentially drawing a circle as they rotate their shoulder. Lower resistance means this is not a problem as the shoulder can adequately operate under those circumstances.
But as you raise resistance, the shoulder cannot bear too much strain. It is much harder for your shoulder to draw that circle when you are raising the landing gear. Drawing the circle without standing parallel takes the power of the elbow out of the equation. Without the elbow and associated muscles, the strain on the shoulder to generate the required torque could cause injury or pain.
Slippage also represents a danger when torqueing the crank. If you are raising the landing gear and standing face-on to the trailer, if your hand slips off the crank handle, the ricochet coiling force could impact the truck driver, which could cause even greater injury. Still, the experiment was not without some problems.
Researchers did not have the easiest time setting up a laboratory environment that adequately mimicked how truckers operate in the field. Other tasks that leave truck drivers open to potential injury include pulling the fifth wheel pin or pulling the rolling door. But those tasks were much harder to stimulate. A controllable study was far easier when simulating lifting the crank.
Additionally, tasks like pulling a fifth wheel pin, raising the hood, or operating the rolling door have a lot more documentation regarding how to do it without potentially creating a hazardous situation. Operating the crank seemed to be a task that there was very little documentation on.
The next step, according to researchers, is to create an industry-standard document that trucking companies can turn to when they need to train truck drivers on this potentially hazardous task. Studies like these only benefit fleets and truck drivers by preventing injury and potential loss. We hope that more studies like it appear in universities across the country.