Critical Driver Shortage Affecting U.S. Trucking Industry
Requires Hyper-Realistic VR Training to Meet Commerce Needs
By John Kearney
If you're in the trucking industry, you know you have a problem. You don't have enough drivers, trucks cost a lot and training is even worse when you consider the accidents you could have prevented or when you have trucks against the fence and no driver to carry the freight. Well, what about the solution you might say? There is one, if we are willing to get into the modern era. The trucking industry doesn't have enough drivers and we will need to hire nearly 900,000 new operators over the next decade just to maintain the current workforce. Well, if I was trying to attract new drivers, I would look to the driver group under 21 years of age - I can attract them by using what they are used to using, simulation and virtual reality (VR). That age group is the one buying the VR systems and using simulation for games. They will be attracted to the industry and there are a lot of them looking for a way forward.
So why wouldn't schools use VR to attract drivers with their training or a similar method? There is no good reason not to. Today's sim is designed for training drivers and it is an adjunct to driving in the real truck. But the difference is that it does some things better than the real truck. Why is that? Today's sim can duplicate the action and feeling of the real truck. The best simulators are so close to reality with perfect motion and real reaction to everything you would feel in the real truck. The closer we can get to reality, the longer we can train in the sim without the risk of getting motion sick. The more we train, the more we develop correct muscle memory and not erroneous reaction to an event in the real truck. We do that by making the sim of today have the same dashboard dial and location, same seatbelt and reaction, OEM steering, VR or optics on the screen that are just right. The bump in the road needs to occur at the right time, the rain, snow, sounds and reaction of the seat all must react like the real truck.
So, if we can do that - and we can - then what is the problem? The cost is now at a level that it pays for itself in about a year when you look at fuel, tires and maintenance costs and the fact that the real truck can now be on the road instead of doing basic training. The trainer can now assist multiple sims operating at the same time and do more important functions of the training function.
Back to the problem at hand - some people have a natural fear of getting into the truck and driving, especially if it is a shift. But think about a simulator that responds to the mistake a driver made and speaks to the student or driver in a calm voice and takes him/her through it until he learns it right, really right. The answer to solving the problem of recruiting is to market the sim for training and continuing education, save money and have safer drivers.