by Mike Reardon
As any veteran professional driver will tell you, trucking has its challenges.
Similarly to a professional pilot career, it begins with passion. Professional pilots, way back when, pursued their career goal within an industry that fought amongst itself, stole pilots from each other and kept ‘Best Practices’ to themselves. Sound familiar?
Today’s trucking career seems to be stuck in the same airline industry situation of years ago. The trucking industry struggles with how to improve its image as well as manage rising fuel, financial crunch and mounting regulations. Hopefully the trucking industry can master its situation, turn it around on its own, and do so with purpose. After-all trucking is critical to our economy, to all of us.
Despite these challenges, a professional trucking career can be rewarding. Many foresee a huge compensation increases, especially based on proof of quality driving. Today it is truly an international career. For example, India will be seeking 10 million commercial drivers in the coming years. Therefore IF you want to make sure that this is the career for you, you need to take the right first steps to ensure your career success…..Quality Training!
Check out what the airline industry did to turn its situation around years ago. The turning point was an industry-wide commitment to quality training.
As the airline industry raised the level of quality training – standards were established. Standards helped differentiate a commercial pilot career from a job. This may be why an architect, a programmer, a doctor are considered professionals because they also train for their careers beginning with standards. Therefore it would seem a good assumption for a professional driving career to begin with quality standards if it is to fulfill the great potential of the career.
Guess what tool really helped defined standards for a professional pilot career years ago and still does today? Simulators.
Be careful assuming however, simply simulating the flying was not enough. Simulators helped set flying standards, while helping to frame a worldwide and agreed upon curriculum. The curriculum was completed with a library of procedural training scenarios. Altogether, simulators enabled ‘Best Practice’ and helped significantly improve commercial flying experience. As a matter of fact, an airline without a simulator will have no plane today. Maybe that’s why it is safer to fly than to drive as a result?
A simulator remains a relatively new innovation within the truck driver-training community. Large carriers were the first to use the first generation of simulators daily. They did so with significant investment, however, with little verifiable or measurable results. These same simulators with other trucking-industry stakeholders found themselves collecting dust for the most part. So what went wrong?
To begin with, there are remarkable differences to address between a proven flight simulator and a useful truck simulator.
Driving is far more visually intensive than flying which is more procedural.
Pilots must be structured in their approach, while drivers are far more free-wheeling.
Therefore, the right truck simulator must acknowledge these differences, both technologically as well as in training. The right truck simulator to begin with must comprise:
- Technology Foundation – with immersive visual system for engaging you within the virtual driving world. ‘Feel-the-road’ motion system should be included to give you the feel of various road and weather conditions that you may not normally experience in your area. A ‘real-world’ driver-control system with the same fidelity as the real truck, which acts accordingly throughout training scenarios e.g. the gears grind or the trailer moves correctly behind you.
- Teaching Foundation – what this means is that the right truck simulator defines driving standards from how to look far, check blind spots, merge lanes, make turns, scan intersections, etc.. It then frames these standards within a modular and flexible program in order to integrate into any typical CDL training program, while it also populates this program with a training scenario library that will help raise the quality of your driving competencies. These training scenarios must acknowledge free-wheeling drivers with a ‘Show rather than tell’ training approach
There is more to say about the right truck simulator above. But know this, it is available today, just not everywhere or from anyone.
So what’s in it for you?
As a student, and one seeking a professional trucking career, it’s a quality education
As a fleet owner and carrier, a way to secure quality and compliant drivers and most importantly, retain those drivers. ( the trucking industry’s major concern along with the quality driver shortage)
As you know practice makes perfect. Most CDL programs provide very little practice time. Take backing-up as an example; You can practice 12 times in an hour in the right simulator, while maybe four times in a day using a real truck – assuming anyone can afford the fuel for practice time in a truck.
The right truck simulator enhances most CDL programs. Say what? Yeah it adds visual and objective measures or feedback system after every training session. It also adds verifiable experience and performance assessments. Imagine an employer reviewing your resume, plus 1/2 inch of “verifiable driving experience” made on the simulator. Their confidence level in your driving rises dramatically, as well as the potential initial pay.
As for the employer, what’s in for them?. As mentioned above, they are seeking the right quality driver today. Already 1 in 3 drivers are a high risk applicant for them according to a ton of insurance sources. So yeah, they would definitely appreciate “verifiable experience” regarding your driving competencies to be safe (for avoiding crashes and those undesired CSA points), competent and reliable (for requiring less repairs) and productive (on time fuel efficiency).
Of course, you and the rest of the trucking-industry stakeholders have to sit in the right simulator to believe it. 🙂