CDL Training Enters the Era of Virtual Reality

CDL Training Enters the Era of Virtual Reality

Training to become a professional pilot requires spending at least some time in a rather realistic flight simulator. There are some CDL training schools that utilize a similar teaching environment, though their simulators are significantly less realistic. That may change thanks to a new pilot program being used by UPS. The UPS program goes beyond current simulation techniques to include virtual reality (VR) in their driver training.

Unlike the immersive environment of flight simulation using machines that completely replicate the in-cockpit experience, truck simulators are still very much like video games. Student’s drivers do not get the same lifelike experience that includes movement and the feel of being inside a truck cab. Virtual reality aims to change that.

Beginning in September, new drivers brought on board by UPS in Atlanta will begin VR training as part of the basic safety training regimen. They will experience technology that presents a 360° view of a simulated street scene as they are trained in the proper procedures for passing through intersections. Training will also address spotting and avoiding potential hazards, including pedestrians.

The New Generation of Drivers

UPS is not alone in utilizing technology to pursue a new generation of drivers that has grown up on things like video games and smartphones. Carriers from coast to coast are combining VR with trucking simulators and augmented reality to provide lifelike training for new recruits.

Ask most safety or training directors and they will likely tell you that VR is the future of truck driver training. Not only does it allow for training in a more controlled environment but it could also be used as a recruiting tool to get younger people to consider professional truck driving. At any rate, virtual reality training could eventually lead to students spending more time ‘behind the wheel’ prior to getting a CDL as compared to the minimum number of hours they get now.

C.R. England is a trucking company that offers its own CDL training through Premier Truck Driving Schools. It’s easy to imagine them incorporating virtual reality into their regular CDL training as well as ongoing training for current drivers. Just like pilots, professional truck drivers could spend a certain amount of time in the virtual-reality simulator every year just to keep them sharp in their safety skills.

It’s All about Safety

It should be noted that VR training is not as much about learning to shift gears and turn the steering wheel as it is about safety practices and procedures. In other words, UPS has a very strict policy about how drivers look in all directions before proceeding through an intersection. For them, it is a matter of safety. Virtual reality helps as a training tool because it not only offers a lifelike simulation but it also measure’s a driver’s head movements to ensure he or she has looked properly before proceeding.

Nothing will ever substitute for the experience of getting behind the wheel to drive an actual truck. But if virtual and augmented reality technologies can enhance driver safety training, we can expect more trucking companies to take advantage of it.

In the meantime, drivers who do not have the opportunity to undergo VR training still complete their classroom and road work at a CDL school before being licensed. A typical CDL program can last anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks, followed by on-the-job training for most carriers. Drivers finish their training by spending a certain amount of time driving with a trainer on the job. Only after a driver has demonstrated both safety and proficiency is he or she allowed to go solo.

Categories: Auto

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