Driver simulation software more mobile, adaptable
By Aaron Huff
Schneider National is nearing a decision point. Having trained thousands of drivers with simulators during the past five years, the technology has reached its expected lifespan.
Discontinuing the use of the simulators is not an option. Instead, management will decide whether to upgrade its existing hardware and software platforms or to replace them altogether with new technology. Whatever the final decision may be, the Green Bay, Wis.-based company says its experience has proven that the technology pays for itself.
Schneider’s use of simulators began with a pilot test of the MPRI TransSim system in September 2004. In February 2005, the company purchased simulators for all of its locations. As part of the pilot test, Schneider compared a group of new drivers trained with simulators to a group that did not receive simulation training. Where simulation was used, nearly 8 percent more drivers graduated from classroom training.
The higher graduation rate was due primarily to the fact that simulators provide an effective way to remove anxiety once drivers enter a big rig, especially with tasks like shifting. “A large truck is intimidating to someone who has not driven much before,” says Don Osterberg, senior vice president of safety, security and driver training.
Once drivers completed the initial classroom training, they entered an over-the-road phase with a certified instructor. Drivers who trained with simulators graduated at an 8.6 percent higher rate.
Once drivers completed training, Schneider compared the safety results of drivers during the first 90 days. The simulation-trained group had 31 percent fewer recordable crashes, and the driver retention rate was 14 percent higher.
The company uses an integrated learning model that consists of simulation, computer and instructor-led training. By leveraging simulators, Schneider calculated it is able to reduce fuel costs tied to instructor-led training and has saved $1.39 million in payroll by reducing the number of instructors from 188 to 164.
“Simulators will not replace the instructor,” Osterberg says. “But (simulators) are a very efficient way to train in the near term.”
Besides using simulators for initial driver training and driver assessments, fleets can customize the technology to fit virtually any type of training need. Schneider has replicated some of the distribution centers for its dedicated accounts. By simulating the layout, drivers can be exposed to the unique requirements of a shipping and receiving center before they pull their first load.
“What we are trying to create is ‘I’ve been here before,’” Osterberg says.
Schneider also saves money by having drivers with the lowest fuel efficiency go through simulation-based miles-per-gallon training. In monitoring the results from a group of 976 drivers that received the training, Schneider documented a 2-percent increase in mpg. Annually, the savings came to $2,850 per driver, for a total of more than $2.78 million.
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