Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical Engineering

Committee Member

Dr. A. Vahidi, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. E.H. Law

Committee Member

Dr. B. Ayalew

Committee Member

Dr. J. Wagner


This thesis uses a high fidelity vertical plane ride model of the tractor semi-trailer to study the effect of different cab design configurations and semi-active seat damper control strategies on the driver’s ride comfort.

The secondary suspensions of a tractor have been an area of particular interest because of the considerable ride comfort improvements they provide. A gap exists in the current engineering domain of an easily configurable high fidelity low computational cost simulation tool to analyze the ride of a tractor semi-trailer. A 15 degree of freedom model of the tractor semi-trailer was used to develop a simulation tool in the Matlab/Simulink environment. The simulation tool developed was verified against TruckSim. The contributions of the different modes of vibration to the ride comfort were analyzed. It is shown in this work that the ride at the driver’s seat can be significantly improved by relocating the cab mounts near the nodes of the 1st mode of bending of the tractor frame and by employing a full cab suspension. The developed simulation tool was used to quantify the improvements in the driver ride comfort.

To develop seat isolation systems, the truck seat was modeled as a base excited 1 d.o.f. system. It is shown in this work that two optimal solutions exist depending on the spatial characteristics of the base excitation. One of the optimal solutions can be physically realized in the form of a passive spring and a passive damper in parallel. The other optimal solution can be approximated by a passive spring and a continuously variable damper in parallel. A fuzzy logic based switch mechanism was developed to switch between two realizations of the optimal solutions. A recursive least square estimator was developed to estimate the seat load and the stiffness of the spring using the same signals as the controller thus allowing universal application of the seat damper controller. The resultant controller is shown to provide the best ride comfort over various types of road surfaces.

A model predictive controller for the seat damper was also developed for this work. A novel method was developed to model the bounds on the seat suspension stroke as hard constraints of the optimization problem. An efficient scheme was developed to include the frequency weighted acceleration in the performance index of the optimization problem. It is shown in this work that the MPC based seat damper controller provides better ride comfort in some specific scenarios.

This work contributes towards the furthering the knowledge-base of the issues encompassing the ride quality of a tractor semi-trailer. The efficacy of the developed tractor semi-trailer ride simulation tool as a design and analysis tool is presented in this work.



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