New simulation truck driving course to help stem driver shortage

In News4 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineJune 23, 2023

A new simulation truck driving programme has been launched, hoping to help clear the bottleneck behind New Zealand’s truck driver shortage.

The +IMPAC VRC Whiti Supply Chain truck driver training programme slashes the qualifying period from six months to two weeks. The course accelerates learning and introduces tools that build competence faster while significantly improving safety outcomes for novice drivers.

+IMPAC’s Whiti Supply Chain Programme, in partnership with the logistics industry and the Ministry of Social Development, has already revolutionised the safety training qualifications of new forklift operators through virtual reality simulator technology. Now, its truck driving simulator has been launched into New Zealand.

“The truck simulators empower candidates, many of them beneficiaries, to climb behind the wheel of a truck with the competency and belief they need to do the job,” said Sam Eyre, +IMPAC truck training course lead.

“It is a considerably safer way to train new drivers because they are not going straight from classroom to real truck. They go from classroom to simulator to truck, so we’re not just putting newbies behind the wheel of four tonnes of steel. They step into the real thing, already knowing the process—the dashboard isn’t a strange collection of buttons and levers.”

The introduction of truck simulator training through +IMPAC’s Whiti Supply Chain Programme cuts the stand down period between learners and full licence to just two weeks, significantly reducing costs and nurturing aspiring drivers through the unit standards and road code learning and assessment.

Eyre said not only do the truck simulators fast track driver training for a lot less money, they also make the career more attractive to young people. Until now, it has not been a career that has attracted young people due to the obstacles.

“Our truck driving workforce is ageing,” Eyre said. “Most drivers are in their forties and fifties. With the simulator there are fewer obstacles, and the technology gamifies the learning process—training becomes stickier.”

The traditional methods of training truck drivers in New Zealand involve a significant amount of time learning at home, usually alone. Candidates are left to their own devices with little in the way of tutoring and mentoring through the process.

“They no longer have to do this independently because they have instructors and assessors walking them through the training. They don’t have to sit online theory tests on their own. They achieve their full class 2 licence in two weeks,” said Eyre.

In addition, candidates are taught skills like preparing a CV.

While students are on the truck simulators, trainers sit behind their consoles to monitor training in real-time and, unlike traditional driver training, there is the ability to introduce all kinds of hazards, from cyclists to snow and other dangerous weather conditions like sunstrike and, importantly, wind velocity.

The technology provides real-time assessments of where the driver has performed well or poorly, as well as mistakes and efficiencies with an objectivity that only solid data can provide. The simulator also puts drivers through the experience of what it’s like to drive drunk or fatigued, and correct gearing and exhaust braking.

Eyre said, “The session reports are helpful in training new drivers and assessing the skills of experienced drivers because, with data, there is no room for subjectivity.”