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Few things in the shipping industry are as critical as good truck driver training. Drivers must learn to handle any kind of situation they encounter, from ice storms to drunk drivers. The consequences of slow or unsuitable reactions can cost people their lives and carriers tens of thousands of dollars. Many types of training have been implemented over the years, with varying results. Now, virtual reality (VR) truck driver training is gaining traction and with good reason.

Traditional Truck Driver Training

Since 1992, truck drivers have been required to hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Commercial truck driver training schools throughout the country train prospective truck drivers through a combination of in-class and on-the-road training that usually lasts three-to-four weeks. The training readies them to be ready to earn a Class A CDL.

This Class A CDL permits drivers to operate a combination of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of more than 26,000 pounds, as long as the vehicles being towed have a GVWR of at least 10,000 pounds. The most common heavy-duty truck fitting that description is a tractor trailer.

Standard in-class and closed-course training does a good job (depending on the school) of teaching the basics. It helps students get their license, but it cannot realistically replicate every circumstance that a driver will face on the road. Another drawback with in-class training is that you can’t tell from the answers on a multiple-choice test whether the student knew the right answer or just guessed it. Virtual reality truck driver training overcomes these issues.

Carriers that hire new drivers — many only hire experienced drivers — tend to have in-house training programs that serve as an alternative to the private CDL training schools. In other words, you could skip the private school training and get a job with a carrier that will train you. Their programs also give recent graduates from private schools more real-world experience before they start carrying freight. A number of these carriers have been the early adopters of virtual reality truck driving training.

Why VR Truck Driver Training?

Carriers that adopt VR truck driver training do so for several reasons, which might include:

  • VR simulations are custom made for each model vehicle and driving situation. The driver sits in an actual truck seat and handles the wheel, both of which react realistically as the simulator is “driven” by the student driver. This enables new drivers to learn how to handle their rig in any driving situation before they ever get on the road.
  • Paying for the technology is less expensive than the costs of accidents involving inexperienced drivers.
  • Young people have used VR in games, and the trucking industry needs to attract more young drivers. The average age among today’s drivers is 55-years old. Many drivers will retire in the next 10 years and carriers are actively looking for their replacements. Making training feel like a familiar game helps overcome any preconceived notions young student drivers may have about driving a truck.
  • Training sessions can be recorded, so there is no question as to whether the student driver knew or didn’t know what to do. There is no multiple choice in VR truck driver training.

Three objections held VR back for a while. The technology (hardware and software) was expensive, some VR users experienced nausea and the graphics did not present a clear view of the dashboard. Now, the technology costs are lower, the graphics are superior, and there’s a work-around for the nausea problem.

Not only is VR truck driver training gaining traction, but it’s moving into other areas of driver training.

Expanding VR Truck Driver Training to Include Product Handling

Driving a truck comes with its own set of dangers, almost all of which are on the road. But drivers of hazardous materials face other dangers once they reach their destination and transition from being a driver to being a product handler.

Trimac Transportation reasoned that if drivers could be trained to operate their vehicles more safely using VR, they could also learn to handle their cargo with less risk. They saw that even their most experienced drivers sometimes made the wrong snap decisions when trying to avert a hazardous accident. It became clear that a driver who had only read about what to do during a once-in-a-lifetime disaster scenario was not equipped well enough to handle it.

For those reasons, they now train drivers in hazardous product handling using VR. With VR the drivers develop the muscle memory for each situation that will allow them to take the right course of action instinctively, rather than having to think about what they were trained to do.

Technology Never Sleeps

VR truck driver training is just one more example of how the shipping industry adopts the latest technology to improve safety, reliability, timeliness and customer service.

At FreightCenter, we use a combination of advanced technology and human shipping experts to provide our customers the service they need to be successful shippers. If you’re ready to ship something, get a free quote instantly from multiple carriers or call us at 844-212-7447.

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