By John Kearney

A recent U.S. Department of Transportation report shows that fatalities for large-truck occupants have reached their highest level on more than thirty years. This appears to be an ongoing trend; U.S. trucking fatalities for 2018 also exceeded a level not seen since 1988.

The bulk of these fatal accidents take place when a driver encounters something unexpected and makes a bad decision. The only way to make trucking safer is to improve truckers’ understanding of extreme situations through increased simulator training.

As an example of bad decision-making in unexpected circumstances, let’s look at an accident that happened last month during a bout of extreme wintry weather in Texas. When you have heavy traffic, freezing rain, and icy roads, there are things you can’t do, at least not safely. You can’t drive at normal distances from the vehicle in front of you, you can’t drive at normal freeway speeds, and you can’t slam on your brakes. One recent morning in Fort Worth, people did all three of those things at more or less the same time. The result was a pileup of 130-plus vehicles, including more than a dozen semi-trailer trucks, that left six people dead and more than three dozen injured.

Make your mistakes where it’s safe
The purpose of simulation is to allow students to encounter the unexpected, and make mistakes, in an environment in which there is no risk. This is standard procedure in other professions; recently updated Federal Aviation Administration standards, for example, are designed to make simulation training and testing more accurate and realistic in scenarios involving dangerous situations. In medical schools, simulation has become recognized as a standardized and safe method for training and assessing surgeons.

Simulation isn’t yet as widely used in training commercial drivers as it is in training pilots and surgeons, but it can be and it should be. High schools and vocational schools are increasingly using simulators to prepare students for jobs in the motor freight industry. That’s good for the other drivers on the highways and good for the students. Unlike some of the other industries offering jobs to these students—fast food, for instance—trucking isn’t a dead end. It offers high-school graduates decent pay, a career path, and a future.

And with proper training, it offers not only a secure occupation but a relatively safe one. It may be impossible to eliminate accidents altogether, but it’s not impossible to drastically reduce them, by learning where trouble lies and how to get out of it safely. Remember, if you make a mistake in a simulator, you don’t hurt anybody.


For More Information

Advanced Training Systems has revolutionized the design and manufacture of high-tech simulators to improve driver training and create both better drivers and a safer world. In addition to hundreds of driving schools, we provide equipment and support for major shippers who do their own training, as well as customized solutions for those with particular training needs. For more information or to schedule a demo, please contact us here.