Human Factors and Ergonomics in the spotlight

Human Factors and Ergonomics in the spotlight

Posted by Annelies Querner-Verkerk on Fri 31 Aug. 2012 - 2 minute read

Every year HFES (the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society) organizes a major scientific event where colleagues can discuss recent developments in Human Factors and Ergonomics research.

With over 4,600 members globally, comprised of psychologists, designers, and engineers, all of whom have a common interest in designing systems and equipment to be safe and effective for the people who operate and maintain them. HFES has already scheduled the annual meetings for the upcoming years, looking as far as the 60th meeting in Washington (2016).

Recent publication – courier truck redesign

In the International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics, Hurley et al. (2012) present an interesting evaluation study. They studied the use of a standard courier truck compared to a prototype courier truck to be able to reduce the unnecessary and double - handling of packages. Since many courier truck drivers fall victim to MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders) due to everyday tasks of a courier driver, it is a logical step to work on improving their current situation. A possible solution could be an effective redesign of the courier truck.

The experiment

Hurley et al. set up an experiment in which they used a simulated delivery route where courier truck drivers had to deliver small, lightweight boxes along with large, heavy boxes. By using four cameras, the researchers captured all the behaviors of the truck drivers. A set of muscles were selected and surface EMG was collected to capture the demands of the distal upper extremity, shoulder and lower back which Hurley et al. identified as highly loaded body parts during previous observations of courier drivers.

Integrate EMG data with video observations

The video and EMG data were loaded and synchronized into video analysis software The Observer XT. All of the tasks performed were coded using the program. The researchers explain that this allowed for the assessment of the task performed, timing of tasks, number of lifts, location of lifts, and the ability to synchronize the EMG data with the specific tasks being performed.

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Suitable intervention?

Hurley et al. conclude that the productivity improved with the prototype courier truck.  Also, all ten courier drivers rated the prototype courier truck as being superior to the current truck.  The researches gained a lot of knowledge by observing the prototype courier truck.

One of the biggest changes between trucks was the number of times the cart was lifted on and off the truck.

When wanting to prevent MSD’s, a redesigned truck could be a suitable intervention, keeping in mind that there are several factors which play a role in the physical and mental workload of the driver. 


Hurley, K.; Marshall, J.; Hogan, K.; Wells, R. (2012). A comparison of productivity and physical demands during parcel delivery using a standard and a prototype electric courier truck. International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics, 42, 384-391.

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