Simulators for safety
When attending the recent Road Freight Association (RFA) convention, GAVIN MYERS met with Thivash Moodley, CEO of TMI Dynamatics, to find out more about the merits of driver training simulators
The issue of road safety was a hot topic of discussion at the RFA this year (see page 12) and allied to that was the issue of sufficiently trained drivers. Speeding, false/expired licences, fatigue, poor diets, unroadworthy vehicles and lax law enforcement are all factors contributing to the high number of lives lost on our roads every year.
With so many factors to consider, where do you start? Moodley contends that starting at home, with a proper investment in individual driver training, would be the best option.
Moodley’s company develops the Interactive Driver Education System (i-Des), which is a computerised driver-training solution that incorporates e-learning modules and simulator training to fully prepare drivers for South African roads.
“Simulator training is very popular and it is used across the board. It is suitable for a range of applications; from learner drivers wanting to learn the basics on how to drive, to professional drivers wanting to improve specific driving skills to enhance their professional capability,” Moodley explains.
In an ideal situation, learners would be placed on the interactive e-learning platform before moving onto learning specific requirements for driving in South Africa. They would then be introduced to various simulated driver experiences that enhance driving skills within the K53 context. Training would conclude with an on-road evaluation.
“Simulators are very effective in enhancing and developing a driver’s skills in preparation for ‘on-the-road’ driver training. Simulator training greatly reduces the required time spent on road to produce a skilled driver,” Moodley notes.
It would stand to reason that this is due, in part, to a lessened “intimidation factor”. “Absolutely,” says Moodley. “Inexperienced drivers find a simulator unthreatening and far less stressful, as well as a fun and confidence boosting way to master new skills.” For professional drivers, simulators become economically viable for training across a range of vehicle and scenario types.
“Multiple driving scenarios can be created and tested on one platform. We can simulate various real-life vehicles; including trucks, buses, plant and other specialised vehicles – as well as scenarios; like a tyre blow out, brake failure, varying terrain and weather conditions, different loads, imbalanced loads, and added trailers,” he elaborates.
The upshot is that scenarios, vehicle characteristics, environmental conditions and routes can be designed to be as close as possible to the local reality.
Simulator training also holds great advantages for the company investing in its drivers. A portfolio of evidence, created from every session spent on the simulator, allows the learner and instructor to monitor progress and identify problem areas.
As a training option, repeatability is guaranteed as all drivers undergo the same training and acquire similar a skill set. Of course, maintenance and running costs are low …
“Companies wanting to assess and maintain high levels of driver skill use simulator training for its efficacy and cost effectiveness. When developing and up-skilling professional drivers, there are substantial cost benefits when using simulator training, versus placing each driver in a physical vehicle,” says Moodley.
“The seamless integration of the overall training package offered, from the interactive e-learning packages through to the detailed tutoring of the K53 driver requirements, is appreciated by our clients.”
Moodley says that simulator training has also proved to be a hit with drivers. “Drivers are amazed at the ‘realness’ of the simulator, and the ease with which driving skills can be acquired, practised and then implemented on the road.”
“We strive to place skilled drivers on South Africa’s roads and up-skill those already using the roads, making South Africa a safer place to drive,” Moodley concludes.
After all, an operator who put this much emphasis on driver training, would be more likely to ensure his vehicles are roadworthy and that his drivers stick to the law and live a healthy life on the road. The more all of these aspects can be encouraged, the greater the potential for a safer industry.