[Skip to Content]

A Mobile Driver Training Simulator shows drivers how to handle any situation

By on September 4, 2015
virtual-trouble

Almost everyone considers themselves a good driver. Terry Kearns, a truck driver for nearly 30 years and now a trainer in safe driving with the Paducah Area Transit System, can shatter that self-image in a matter of minutes.

All it takes is a seat behind the wheel of the Mobile Driver Training Simulator.

“You would be surprised at how many ‘good’ drivers have bad habits,” he says. “We’ll have someone come in for training, letting us know that they’ve been driving for 40 years and have great skills. I say, ‘let’s see what you can do.’ Ninety percent of the drivers fail the first assessment scenario.”

Driving simulation modules have been around for quite a while, but most of them stay in one location. Kearns and his wife Gail lead classes on a mobile unit, transported by a Freightliner. A 53-foot trailer holds three separate simulators — one set up to mimic the view and feel of large vehicles like trucks and buses. An expansion on the trailer slides out into a classroom, where attendees learn how to improve their powers of observation and be ready when the unexpected occurs.

“We can put you in any kind of situation that might happen on the road,” says Kearns. “A deer will run in front of you, you’ll be running through heavy fog at night, or snowy weather. It’s complete virtual reality, so in a scenario where a tire blows out, the driver feels the steering wheel jerk and the tire going down. In an accident the windshield shatters.”

The three simulators can interact with each other also, so while one driver is operating a truck another can drive a fourwheeler and get a powerful lesson in the difference between a car’s stopping distance and a bus or truck’s stopping distance, without anything being hurt but their pride.

Safety in numbers

In addition to his many years on the road as a trucker, Kearns worked as a trainer for J.B. Hunt, and incorporates the Smith System into his lessons. His wife has long experience as a bus driver. Both are National Safety Council-certified driving instructors, and have extensive training on the simulator itself from its manufacturer, FAAC, Inc. The Paducah Area Transit System makes training on the simulator a yearly requirement for all of its drivers and saw significant improvement since using it — a 75 percent reduction in accidents.

Kearns is passionate about safety and wants to reach even more drivers with this mobile simulator. He is ready to drive it to just about any place in the country.

“It’s not just for professional drivers,” he says. “This protects all the people out there. It hits you when you see the statistics — 6,000 people a day are hit by a moving vehicle; 90 people an hour die due to traffic accidents. And most are preventable.”

He’s seen the lesson sink in when a trainee going through a scenario on the simulator makes a mistake that results in a virtual death. It shakes them up to realize what would happen if the vehicle and the road and the situation actually occurred.

“This isn’t a game,” Kearns says. “It’s serious.”

About Road King

For the professional Driver

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *