What's the ideal jeep design? UP study raises concerns on drivers' health

MANILA, Philippines – While the transportation department is mulling the phaseout of old jeeps as part of its modernization program, perhaps it can also consider changing the design of the vehicles considered the kings of the road in the Philippines.

The dimensions and design of a typical passenger jeepney is far from ideal, according to a study conducted by the College of Engineering of the University of the Philippines - Diliman.

With small leg room, uncomfortable seats, and difficulties in adjusting fixed mirrors, jeep drivers have to endure long working hours – about 10 hours a day, 4 or 5 days a week – in uncomfortable working conditions, the study said.

Drivers, for instance, have to lean forward to look out for traffic signs and stoplights because of the limited height of the windshield. The distance between the seat and the steering wheel is also not enough to allow drivers to move more freely.

To prevent back pain and fatigue commonly experienced by jeep drivers, the researchers suggested improving the design of jeeps to make them ergonomic enough to fit the build of an average Filipino driver.

According to the study, these are the ideal dimensions for a passenger jeep:

To gather data for the study, the researchers interviewed drivers and took measurements of the jeeps plying routes in the UP Diliman campus.

Based on their interviews, the researchers also recommended having a properly contoured driver's seat instead of a plain "bench" type seat, and increasing the height of the windshield.

While the study hopes to help improve drivers' working conditions – to avoid them having to slump over in an uncomfortable, awkward posture – the researchers said changing the vehicles' design also plays a role in passengers' safety.

If drivers can sit properly and have better views of the side mirrors, the risk of road accidents can be decreased.

The researchers, however, noted that while the drivers admitted discomfort, they "choose to ignore" the problems because making adjustments would mean shelling out more money.

"The drivers are satisfied even if they are restricted to a small leg room, they have to bend just to see the traffic light, and/or they have to enter the passenger’s side just to get to the driver’s seat. Even if the respondents claim that they are at ease in their present condition, they all confirm that body ache and other discomfort are expected after each working day," the study said.

It added, "The drivers just choose to ignore these problems simply because there will be monetary costs in solving these problems and because they have grown accustomed to these conditions." – Rappler.com