Jolly Jumper Effect

Lewistown, Pennsylvania

A big truck is the world’s largest vibrator, delivering nagging discomfort, not pleasure.

Vibration is the silent, constant, destructive companion of the over-the-road driver. Dr. Mark, the chiropractor I visited in Bangkok, Thailand in February, warned of potential onset of osteo-arthritis in my lower spine, aggravated by vibration.

Test driving the BoseRide seat on the simulator at the Louisville, KY truck show in March convinced us we wanted to try the technology despite the $6,000 price tag.

Vibration affects everything in a big truck. In three months, my red Canada ball cap commemorating the 2010 Canada vs USA Olympic hockey victory, hanging above the passenger seat, was fashionably distressed by truck vibration as it bounced against the seat. The edges of jeans at my hips, frayed to splitting in a year, vibrating against the seatbelts. I’m convinced that even my eyeballs were vibrating.

Anxious to avoid further physical damage to our bodies, we decided to invest $6,000 on the BoseRide driver seat in May. We had a 60-day money back trial.

Inquiring minds want to know, if the hugely, expensive seat works.

Up front, I was biased to the seats from the first test-drive on the simulator at the Louisville, Kentucky truck show in March. Not only do we think Bose is a good brand name, we desperately want this seat to work. Since we are early adopters, well MacGyver is an early adopter and I’m along for the ride, we decided to try the technology.

The BoseRide technology is based on its noise-canceling headphones, which send an opposite sound wave to cancel out the sound wave of a background noise. The seat sends an opposite signal to keep the truck seat level and steady canceling the constant vibration of the road.

This vibration-canceling system is a computer installed underneath the driver seat. It is the only truck seat with blinking LED lights, an ethernet port and a SIM card behind the back panel. When the system is turned off, the seat becomes a regular air ride seat, using air to absorb the shocks in the road.

Immediately we could feel a difference. With the BoseRide switched on, MacGyver can drink his coffee without spilling it. The big bumps in the road — and there are many across this vast nation — are absorbed. But the seat is more about the vibration that the bumps.

We found the seat has a jolly jumper effect. Just like how you think it would feel if you were set free in a baby’s jolly jumper, the seat seems to porpoise up and down, bouncing higher the deeper the ruts in the road. But it’s not the seat that is moving, it’s the truck, the seat is staying virtually level.

Over-the-road drivers absorb both sudden shocks and constant road-induced, whole-body vibration. As the months behind the wheel mounted, I found myself trying to “stretch” my eyeballs at the end of my driving shift They seemed slightly out-of-focus but I wasn’t overly tired and my prescription in my glasses is good. I heard another driver say that his eyeballs seemed to vibrate when he’d been in the truck several hours and I thought, yes!, that’s what’s happening to me.

Bose says research studies confirm that whole-body vibration increases fatigue and causes stress to the body and spine. I agree.

From the brochure:

“A high-powered linear electromagnetic actuator in a package small enough to fit under a truck seat. A high-performance amplifier powerful enough to support a 350-pound driver, yet so efficient it typically draws less energy than a 50-watt light bulb. Sensors and control algorithms working together to counteract road disturbances before they reach the driver.”

Spending big money on equipment is logical for us. The driver seat is a tool that can keep us comfortable and healthy and earning so that we are profitable in the long term.

In my home, my parents had three priorities, eyes, teeth and feet. Enormous amounts of money went into looking after each of these components. Eyes were checked regularly and protected at all times, teeth met limited sugar, almost no cavities on three kids, one with none, and good shoes all the time.

MacGyver, a gadget guy by nature, who bought his first cell phone in 1986 when they were the size and weight of a brick, knows that good tools help produce good results and that leads to more business and more profit. The key is to pick and choose the tools, avoiding buying simply because something is cool or tax “deductible”, which is a big pitch in computer stores. In truth, it’s usually depreciable, not deductible and you still have to pay for it. It’s not free. To a professional driver, a good seat is a tool of the trade.

Since we can turn the vibration-canceling effect off and on, we instantly feel the difference by flipping the switch. It absorbs the giant shocks, huge potholes, missing pieces of asphalt in the road. Greg immediately took to the seat. While I am very comfortable while the truck is driving on cruise control, I have a problem when I’m on the throttle, the foot pedal.

The seat, staying level while the truck is moving, seems to lift me up on rough road taking my foot entirely off the pedal or worse, the brake and bringing it back down, maybe harder than I want. Even when the seat is positioned so that my heel is on the floorboards, my whole leg is lifted up. When driving on the pedal, using a little extra pressure to keep my heel down, my hip is fatigued.

After discussions with Bose engineers, we determined that we are not typical truckers because we prefer to have the seat higher off the floorboards. This was was driven home at the Dallas truck show in August when we toured the Pride and Polish show trucks and realized that the drivers had cut the seats down so they sat on the floorboards and raised the stick shifts so they almost hang from them like an orangutan. A higher seat position, we’re told, accentuates the jolly jumper effect.

We found the seat itself, which Bose purchases then fits its technology inside, to be hard at the back of the seat, not enough padding, and hard enough that MacGyver sits on a tempur-pedic pillow. Me, well, I hope I haven’t grown a little extra padding because I’ve gotten used to the firmness. The seat itself is purchased from a national manufacturer and we’ve suggested to Bose that they may need to offer drivers a choice. Not all butts are created equal.

Before the seat was replaced it was very difficult to slide around the shifter from the sleeper into the drier seat. The shifter is a small part of that huge box.

Drivers may like to know that the seat is very comfortable for just sitting when parking. One of the trucker habits that we find very interesting is the number of drivers who put in ten or 11 hours behind the wheel, then stop in the truck stop for their break and sit in the driver seat while talking on the phone or working on their computer. When we’re done driving, we want out of the seat, out of the truck, to walk around. It does not occur to us to sit in the driver’s seat, but then we are two and our passenger seat swivels, giving us the feeling of having a living room.

Not only is the ride smoother, but we’ve gained precious inches of room, increasing comfort in the the tractor.

When the road is rough, or we are in the city, we turn the BoseRide off. There is more starting and stopping in the city and the traffic flow is inconsistent. We prefer the seat on air ride.

We had an unexpected bonus with the seat. To install it, technicians had to readjust Black Beauty’s automatic shifter, removing it from its case, the size of a small, bakery bread loaf and positioning it lower against the seat. It has given us more room in the cab. It’ s easier to slide from the sleeper into the driver seat. Like football, living in a truck is a battle of inches, finding a couple extra here and there is a victory.

We visited the BoseRide team at the Dallas truck show to tell them we are keeping the seat. The ride is great on the highway, on cruise control. We feel less drained after an eleven-hour driving shift.

Our next priority is a new passenger seat, one that swivels creating our living room.

3 thoughts on “Jolly Jumper Effect

  1. The seat looks good in the truck. Glad to hear that you're liking it. I love the idea of the swiveling passenger seat – wish we had those.I'm the kind of trucker who likes my seat low. Ed always gives me grief because when it's so low, with almost no air in it, I don't get all the cushioning the air provides. But when it's too high, I feel like an adult at the kids table – hovering over everything. I like to be down in my little driving area, all cozy like in a cubicle.


  2. Normally, I'd say nothing can relieve that hellacious, bone-jarring piece of road, but the last time we drove it, a couple of months ago, the Good Fairy of Asphalt had paid a visit and laid a new layer of the smooth stuff on the approach to the George Washington bridge. I only bit my tongue once.New asphalt or not, it's my last trip through there for awhile, the tolls across the Hudson shot up like a rocket. $12 for a car to travel the tunnels. I'm afraid to get the final number on the cost of a five axle truck across the GW and it's going up again in the New Year.The people of the Northeast might start finding shortages at their local mall, who can afford to pay all the tolls.


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