Date of Award

Spring 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Marklin, Richard W.

Second Advisor

Kim, Kyuil

Third Advisor

Simoneau, Guy


U.S. and Canadian electric utility companies are in the process of integrating mobile computers into their fleet vehicle cabs. The placement of the mobile computer in the vehicle cab could have a significant effect on biomechanical loading, performance, and subjective assessment. The objective of this research is to determine the best location to place a mobile computer in a truck cab.

In this experiment, four locations of mobile computers in a truck cab were selected and tested in a laboratory study to determine how location affected muscle activity of the lower back and shoulders; joint angles of the shoulders, elbows, and wrist; user performance; and subjective assessment. Along with location, subject size and type of computer task were also considered in the analysis. Twenty-two participants were tested in this study. Placing the mobile computer closer to the steering wheel reduced the low back and shoulder muscle activity required to use the mobile computer. Joint angles of the shoulders, elbows and wrists were also closer to neutral angle. In general there were no practical differences in performance between the locations. Subjective assessment indicated that users preferred the mobile computer to be as close as possible to the steering wheel. It was also found that using the touchscreen required more muscle force and less neutral joint angles than the keyboard.

Locating the mobile computer close to the steering wheel reduces risk of injuries such as low back pain and shoulder tendonitis. Also, mobile computer users prefer the location to be close to the steering wheel. Results from this study can guide electric utility companies in the installation of mobile computers into vehicle cabs. Results may also be generalized to other industries that use truck-like vehicles, such as construction.