Contributed by: Pierro Hirsch – Virage Simulation
Everyone who works for a long time in driver training and licensing learns to live with the 800-pound gorilla. Scientists who visit the jungle only briefly, to study driver training and licensing, are not prepared and do not know how to interpret the impact of this creature. What is the 800-pound gorilla? If you do not already know, you will by the end of this blog.
In 2011, Morgan and his team of researchers published an evaluation of what they call the “crucial topics” of testing better methods for training and assessing truck drivers’ safety.* They compared three different training methods against different testing methods. Some drivers were trained on simulators, some took conventional training courses and others took shorter CDL-focused courses. Each group was evaluated on the truck simulator, on a BTW road test and range test and on the DMV road test. The scientists found some interesting and important differences that should not surprise anyone – On a specially constructed BTW road test and simulator test programmed to the exact criteria of the DMV road test, participants with longer training courses (the conventional- and simulator-trained groups) had significantly higher scores than participants from the CDL-focused courses with a much shorter duration. So far so good, more training produces better results on two tests constructed for research purposes only.
What about the real world? What are the effects of different training methods on DMV tests scored by government evaluators? The scientists found none. Every study participant from all three groups passed the DMV tests with scores over 90% and there were no significant differences between the three groups. The scientists, unaccustomed to lowering their eyes, described this as an “unanticipated finding” and they surmise that
“The DMV road test appears to differ in its administration or scoring from the BTW and simulator versions of the test, despite the fact that the simulator test was intentionally designed to replicate all tested aspects of the DMV test and were scored with the same criteria.”
To be certain the fault was not in their constructed tests, the scientists had the BTW and simulator tests independently and blindly scored by an external professional CMV driver training examiner. No bias or significant error in the test scoring was found. The scientists then suggested that the DMV road test may be administered and scored to more lenient criteria than those written in the manual. However, they were unable to independently review the administration of the DMV road tests and thus were also unable to conclude with certainty the source of this unanticipated finding. One might say that they were beginning to lower their eyes, most likely without even realizing it.
What is the 800-pound gorilla? It is no one person or group. And it is not a conspiracy by any proper definition of that word. The gorilla is the 80,000 pound importance of possessing a driver’s license, especially when that license leads to a job. This far outweighs any other considerations.
Do not despair because the same researchers reported some good news that would allow society to produce safer drivers even more quickly and at lower costs for everyone involved. This should keep the gorilla happy. What was the good news?
Entry-level learners who spent 60% of their time on simulators performed just as well as those drivers who were trained for the same length of time in a real truck. This shows that, at the very least, simulators are equal to trucks for training. The scientists continue:
“Providing longer, more structured training for CMV drivers offers distinct benefits that may increase operational safety on public roads. Beyond this, simulators could potentially be used to replace some of the time normally spent training in an actual vehicle. If structured correctly, this could result in cost savings for an organization and allow for novice CMV drivers to be introduced to a heavy vehicle in a safe and controlled manner.”
We will never defeat the 800-pound gorilla because it is in fact our own creation. What we can and arguably should do is learn from science and use the best available tools to produce the safest drivers at the lowest costs. The scientific study cited throughout this blog indicates that training on simulators is the best way for everyone to win, especially our 800-pound friend.
Source: Morgan, J. F., S. Tidwell, et al. (2011). “On the training and testing of entry-level commercial motor vehicle drivers.” Accident; Analysis And Prevention 43(4): 1400-1407.
© 2012, Allen Smith. All rights reserved.