We already know that simulator training is excellent for introducing novice operators to large commercial and transit vehicles. But is every driving simulator equally suited to training basic skills?
In 2010 researchers took a detailed look at the training of 100 large vehicle operators. (This work was ultimately published in 2011 in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention as “On the Training and Testing of Entry-level Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers.”) These authors noted that:
“[Commercial and large vehicle] simulators and scenarios that create a sense of presence and connection for the driver are likely to be more effective as compared to less immersive simulations and scenarios.”
The authors defined “presence” as “a subjective sense of being in one environment while being physically located in another,” noting that “presence is connected with greater levels of performance and enhanced learning in simulator-based training. Presence in simulations is dependent on the responsiveness and emotional connection of the user to the simulated task.”
In the interest of maximizing this sense of “presence,” the researchers used a FAAC TT-2000-V7 full cab driving simulator. They opted for this full-cab simulator specifically because it could be configured to precisely match the exact vehicles that participants would be using for the road and range behind-the-wheel (BTW) testing portions of the study. They found that this “appears to have beneficial effects on drivers’ abilities … [D]rivers trained with the majority of their driving occurring in [a full-cab] simulator possess skills equivalent to those trained in an actual vehicle.”
Ensuring “Presence” in Simulator Training
Presence goes beyond simple “immersive” simulation. A commercial VR gaming headset, a smartphone mounted in a cardboard holder—even an old View-Master toy or 3D glasses—will give an “immersive” experience. But this rarely translates into durable skills. Lots of people enjoy the latest VR battlefield video games; playing them does not transform them into competent soldiers.
Many trainers who specialize in simulation training have found that the best way to assure consistent skills transfer from the driving sim to BTW is to select a simulator that closely resembles the look and feel of your fleet vehicles.
Rob Raheb is an expert in simulation and driver training, as well as an internationally published author and speaker on driver training and the psychology of driving. In his experience, “the more realistic the simulation is the more ‘buy in’ from the student. When a simulator is built more to a vehicle specifications rather than a generic dash panel it gives the student additional time with muscle memory development.”
This is why FAAC specializes in custom simulators that precisely match specific vehicles—including dash layout, OEM gauges, and other authentic components. Because many fleets are diverse, FAAC goes one step further: Drawing on their experience building military driving simulation platforms, they offer simulators with swappable panels. A single sim can be used to train operators on every vehicle type they might encounter on the job: New Flyers, Orions, 40-foot transit buses, articulated buses, smaller cut away vehicles, and more.