Rolf Lockwood

Rolf Lockwood

Innovation and trucking go hand in hand. Always have, always will. It’s one of the things I love most about this game.

These days most of the innovations we see have to do with saving a buck, and we don’t often see one aimed at making drivers more comfortable. The steering-wheel job is one of the toughest out there, so I was especially intrigued when I ran across a pair of entrepreneurs in eastern Canada with what seems like a fine idea.

How about a custom-fitted truck seat that can be adjusted remotely by a medical professional? Like from miles and miles away. No matter where the driver is, in fact.

It’s an interesting tale.

Two enterprising guys in Moncton, New Brunswick, have been busy over the last three years developing an altogether new kind of truck seat. With a background in custom wheelchair design and physical rehabilitation, Shawn Leger took an idea to his inventor friend Darrell Mullen. The goal was to develop a very capable, medically proven seat, and together they formed Force 3 Innovations.

Their initial research involved buying a few seats, which they tore apart to see what was good and what was bad about the designs. Their conclusion? They liked the suspensions but thought they could improve on the average main cushion and backrest for drivers with chronic back issues. So they designed what they call a “seat topper” that can be fitted to existing suspensions.

They took prototypes to three universities for testing and validation. Finished late last year, the testing showed that the Force 3 seat improved comfort markedly. But there were also cognitive benefits.

As Leger explains it, by focusing on the pelvis in their design, they’re able to adjust the seat to optimize a driver’s posture, remove any slumping, and thus “open up the chest” so that the lungs take in more oxygen. The result is demonstrably improved alertness and less fatigue.

When it’s ready for market (in the next 7-12 months) the idea is that the seat will be customized for each individual driver, with medical consultation in the process as required. Adjustability is near infinite in order to accommodate all the weird and wonderful human body shapes out there.

And that’s where remote adjustment will enter the picture. If a driver finds his seat uncomfortable three or four hours — or three or four days — down the road, he could call Force 3, describe what’s going on, and from home base they’d make adjustments through the ether. That’s phase two, says Leger. First they have to seal investor deals and find the right manufacturer.

In the meantime, they’ll help make your present seat do a better job, if you happen to find yourself in Moncton. For example, they just put a driver with a broken tailbone back to work. He’d been unable to sit for more than half an hour, so Leger and Mullen devised an air bladder and installed it in the fellow’s seat cushion. He’s back driving again.

One aspect of this fledgling company’s progress will be especially interesting: Leger says that remote connectivity will allow them to collect data on how people sit. Nobody has done that before, at least not this way, and I’d guess that will prove to be useful science.