SEATING: KAB Seating

By: Sean Muir


KAB Seating is shaking up the bus driver seat market to drive competition and improve driver well-being

SEATING: KAB Seating
A KAB technician fine tunes a GSX 3000 driver’s seat prior to shipping

You are probably sitting as you read this.

If you’re not sitting, you should be, because the following revelation might knock you off your feet: most people – in fact, almost 100 percent of people – will sit down at some stage in their lives.

Even the most avid supporters of standing still sit down from time to time.

It’s not something people spend a lot of time thinking about, but for bus operators and bus drivers, the art of sitting and the type of seat used is more important than some might think – especially when you consider that a great deal of driver compensation claims are for sitting-related injuries.

Bus operators were told at a recent Queensland Government WorkCover forum in Brisbane that close to 40 percent of compensation claims in the transport industry were for muscular stress.

In the passenger transport industry alone it is estimated that almost 50 percent of muscular stress claims are prompted by injury or pain from operating a vehicle, while almost 20 percent of claims are made because of inadequate seating.

So, while you might consider yourself to be a seasoned expert at sitting on your backside, it’s clear that sitting can be quite hazardous if done incorrectly or on the wrong seat for a prolonged period of time.

This is something that the team at KAB Seating has spent a lot of time sitting down thinking about lately.

TAKING A STAND

Already a force in all things seating across a number of industries, KAB, under its owner brand, Commercial Vehicle Group (CVG), has been working hard to enter the bus and coach driver seat market, believed to be an area lacking healthy competition.

Talking at KAB’s head office in Brisbane, KAB Seating Managing Director, Paul Davies says the company has taken a stand against the market’s major player, Isringhausen (Isri), estimated to have more than 90 percent of the Australian bus driver seat market.

"We are looking to give the market some competition, which we think it has been lacking," Davies says.

"We hope that we can bring the alternative that the customer really needs."

Operating in Australia for about 27 years, KAB Seating is the Australian operating division of the United States-owned CVG, which has operating subsidiaries in the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, Europe, China and the US.

CVG bought KAB in the early 2000s, and KAB has been gradually rebranding to CVG since.

Today, CVG, through KAB, is a market leader in Australia's commercial vehicle seating market, with strong footholds in the mining, transportation, construction, agricultural, materials handling, and marine sectors.

The company has even developed a seat for Queensland’s river police, who had previously been using jockey-type seats, which reportedly caused an immense amount of pain.

Davies says KAB has leveraged this type of industry expertise in ergonomic support and customization to help develop the GSX 3000, the company’s first ever bus driver seat for Australia.

The seat was released under the CVG brand late last year to directly compete with Isri’s product range, including the company’s premier Isri 6860/875 seat.

"We are growing in the sectors we operate in," Davies says.

"One of the big sectors we were missing was bus. For a number of years we have just not had the product to get into that driver seat market, so it has been dominated by Isri. They have had a bit of an easy street with no real competitors."

The GSX 3000 has mains air-suspension, a ride positioning system (RPS) with ‘safe ride zone’, 120mm integral pneumatic height adjustment, 220mm fore and aft adjustment, an adjustable shock absorber, a dump valve, backrest recline adjustment, 60mm seat cushion extension, an independent seat tilt adjustment, a seat heater, and auto driver weight adjustment for weights up to 160kg – about twice the weight of an average Australian male.

KAB has also recently relaunched the seat to include an isolator to reduce front and backwards movement and protect the driver from whole body vibration.

What all this seating jargon means is the GSX 3000 is designed to make bus driving as comfortable as possible, while reducing negative health effects associated with sitting behind the wheel, according to Davies.

"There is a tendency to say they are just seats and it is just what you sit on, but it is your connection with the vehicle – it is where the driver sits and it’s their interface with the vehicle," Davies says.

"In the bus and truck sector, drivers are sitting for many hours in the day and they need to be ergonomically looked after."

"It is not like working in the office environment where you can get up and stretch your legs and have a walk for a bit."

KAB is yet to win a major contract with the seat, but Davies says the company is eagerly awaiting the results of a recent tender submission for the supply of driver seating on Volgren Brisbane City buses.

Davies says the contract would be worth about $125,000 a year for the company, for the supply of about 90 driver seats over five years.

He concedes the contract wouldn’t be a massive financial win for the global company, but significant in that it would set a precedent and increase CVGs chances of winning future bus tenders interstate.

"I think the most significant thing is we got to the point where they invited us to tender," Davies says.

"We were concerned that it would be a bit of a closed shop, but they were willing to look around to see what we had. Just to get invited is good at this point, but it would be nice to win one of them."

Keen to promote KAB’s product and service in light of the recent tender, Davies says the company has ability to service and maintain competitor seats around the country – a service he thinks the market is lacking.

According to Davies, KAB has seating experts, warehousing facilities, repair facilities and seat customisation capabilities at branches in Mackay, Brisbane, Newcastle, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.

The company also has a dealer network throughout the country.

Davies hopes the company’s level service and its ability to customise seats will set it apart from competitors.

The product is currently being manufactured through KAB’s sister company CVG Beijing in China, but Davies says KAB plans to do seat modification and upholstering in Australia.

He says the seat will continue to evolve, with a recent Denning Manufacturing trial in Brisbane resulting to several changes, including changes to the seat’s foam density.

"We are just seeing it as continuous improvement, because it is a very demanding market over here and when you are trying to displace a competitor that has got such a good foothold you need your product to be all singing and dancing and produce all the solutions," Davies says.

In the short- to medium-term however, the company is content to target the bus and coach aftermarket in the hope pressure will build for manufacturers to include KAB’s product as an option.

"The GSX is what we have been waiting for – it is a seat that has all the features that the equivalent Isri seat would have," Davies says.

You can also follow our updates by liking us on Facebook