Can Driving Simulators Make Trucks Safer?


June 10, 2019 / Truck Accidents

When a 5,000-pound car collides with an 80,000-pound eighteen-wheeler, the outcome is catastrophic for the passenger vehicle and its occupants. In 2017, according to data compiled by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a total of 4,102 people in the United States died in accidents involving big rigs. That’s 30% higher than in 2009. Of the fatalities, just 17% were truckers, while 82% were occupants of another vehicle, pedestrians, cyclists, or motorcyclists.

As the industry faces a staffing crisis with an estimated shortage of over 50,000 drivers, the government is rolling out a plan to lower the age requirement for driving a commercial truck across state lines. Carriers are offering incentives like signing bonuses and higher salaries to attract recruits. This may help keep goods moving and prices in check, but doesn’t bode well for highway safety.

One promising development is the increasing use of truck driving simulators to teach novice truckers. The big-rig equivalent of flight simulators, these sophisticated training tools are designed to mimic the actual conditions of the road. When used in conjunction with hands-on training with experienced drivers, they may indeed help ensure the newest generation of truckers is well prepared for life behind the wheel.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a tractor trailer, call Indiana truck accident lawyer Mike Stephenson. He has decades of experience fighting for his clients and winning the damages they need to move on.

What Are the Benefits of a Truck Driving Simulator?

A truck driving simulator gives students an experience similar to being on the road — in the safe confines of a training center. Simulators replicate many of the features of real-life driving:

  • Graphics showing a 180-degree view of the road with changing traffic and weather
  • Force-loaded steering wheel that mimics the feel of changing terrain
  • Realistic cab interior with a seat, steering wheel, gear shift, and three pedals
  • Different truck and tractor configurations
  • Emergencies students may encounter while driving, like tire blowouts.

But how well do these machines do what they’re supposed to do? An analysis published in the Transportation Research Record Journal of the Transportation Research Board (and recognized by the organization as the “Best 2017 paper”) suggests that truck driving simulators are highly effective at giving novice truckers the skills they need to drive safely.

The study, titled Transfer of Training in Basic Control Skills from Truck Simulator to Real Truck, found that people who learned on a simulator were just as proficient — and fast — in straight-line backing and 45-degree backing as their peers who trained in the field. They actually became adept at gear-shifting quicker, though other students did catch up.

While driving simulators will not and should not replace real road experience, they are a positive development in truck driving safety.

The attorneys at Stephenson Rife have the experience, knowledge, and passion necessary to give their clients the best possible representation. If you’ve been injured in a collision with a truck, call us to schedule a consultation.

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