Poor seat adjustment leaves van drivers with back pain

New driver CPC training

More than two-thirds (70%) of van drivers have taken time off work due to back pain, which could be costing the UK economy, on average, £21 billion per year, according to Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.

Drivers who suffer from ‘Builder’s Back’ take an average of three weeks off work and the resulting downtime costs companies an estimated £500 a day per van.

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles claims poor seat adjustment could be to blame for triggering back issues, especially as many drivers spend up to seven hours a day in their vans.

During a day’s testing spent at Cordwallis Van Centre, Heathrow, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles and a chiropractor from the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) discovered that while half of van drivers say that they adjust their seat to the correct position, two-thirds are still sitting incorrectly or missing crucial steps.

Although most drivers adjusted their seats before driving, many committed common mistakes of positioning the seat too close to the steering wheel and angling the seat too far back.

Prab Chandhok, chiropractor and member of the BCA, said: “Many people now point to driving as a trigger for their back or neck pain, so it’s really important that your van is set up properly for your needs, to help ease the strain that driving – especially for long periods of time – can have on your back and neck.

“The key thing to remember is that there is no single seat that is perfect for everyone, so it’s practical to test the seat out fully before you buy a new vehicle. The more adjustable it is the better.”

The Volkswagen Crafter offers both ‘ergoComfort’ and ‘ergoActive’ seats, allowing van drivers to individually adjust their seats for an optimal driving position.

Sarah Cox, head of marketing at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, said: “Labourers commonly suffer from ‘Builder’s Back’ for a variety of reasons but poor seating position can often be overlooked.

“Our research made it evident that the majority of drivers don’t adjust their seats correctly. The effect of this is not only causing over two-thirds of van drivers to suffer from back pain but also hits the UK economy with up to £21bn in opportunity cost.

“We were delighted the BCA were on hand to help us during our testing at the Cordwallis Van Centre and to provide us with some top tips to ensure drivers are able to understand the correct way to adjust their seats and avoid back pain.

“As part of our brand promise, Working With You, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles’ aims to create the smoothest and most comfortable journey possible for van drivers, and in turn avoid downtime, especially as so many of our customers spend such extended periods of time in their van.”


  1. Height: Your thighs should be as parallel to the floor as your seat will allow, and where possible try to get your hips higher than your knees. You should also adjust the thigh support if you have one to ensure you have the maximum surface of your thighs touching the seat.
  2. Pedals: You should be able to push the pedals to the floor with a bend in your knees.
  3. 110°: Bring your seat all the way up so it’s straight and then take it back until you are comfortable whilst maintaining a 110 degree angle between your back and thighs.
  4. Lumbar Support: The lumbar support should be adjusted so you can feel it support the hollow in your back but so it’s not causing your spine to arch more than is normal for you.
  5. Head Restraint: The height and angle of your head restraint should be adjusted so you can feel the centre of the support touch the middle of the back of your head, although it does not need to be touching at all times
  6. Steering Wheel: Once in correct seating position, bring your arm up in front of you and position the centre of the steering wheel to be in line with the fold of your wrist.
  7. Rear Mirror: Lift up your chest by five degrees and then adjust your mirrors to help stay in an upright position on long drives.

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  • Mark Burgess - 02/04/2019 16:04

    As a fleet driver trainer I agree with the findings regarding a driver's address at the wheel. Instructors and trainers should be in a position to offer a driver the opportunity to reset the driver's address at the wheel. Whether this is done as a matter of course is open to debate.

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