Redemer Gbeddeh settles into the driver’s seat, taking a deep breath as he starts the engine. The machine roars to life… he tries to remember how to shift into gear. Before he knows it, he is on the road and traffic is picking up.
It’s a lot of pressure driving a semi-truck, especially if you have no previous experience driving a manual transmission.
“I was scared to try it,” Gbeddeh said.
Lucky for him, he is in a safe zone. That traffic? Well, it’s animated. The driver’s seat and gears? All part of a brand new $100,000 truck driving simulator at Scott Community College.
“It makes me more comfortable. I don’t have to worry about messing up a real truck,” he said.
Truck Driving Program Facilitator, Ray Hitchcock, said that’s one of many reasons why the new simulator is an important training tool.
“First and foremost, it gives the students a chance to practice in a non-threatening environment. They are not out there on the road, accidents here don’t turn into disasters out there. Nobody gets hurt, no equipment gets hurt and there are scenarios we can run through here that they’ll hopefully never see out on the road.”
For instance, Hitchcock can adjust the weight of the load students are pulling, make it snow or rain, add and subtract traffic, and even set-up accident scenarios like a blown tire.
“It feels pretty close to the real thing, it translates pretty well,” he said.
It’s also just plain cool.
“I think it’s pretty awesome,” Gbeddeh said. “It’s very high tech.”
“This is a piece of equipment that will certainly enable us to take this program to the next level,” Hitchcock said.
It couldn’t come at a better time either, with the American Trucking Associations predicting a need for 900,000 new drivers within the next ten years, training the next generation of over-the-road drivers is more important than ever.
“There is an awful shortfall of drivers. All of the companies are suffering and needing to hire more people,” Hitchcock said.
With many companies offering sign-on bonuses and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting a median salary of more than $40,000, student Terry Krieger said that’s exactly why he decided to enroll in the program.
“I went into truck driving because of the different career opportunities and the excitement of being able to travel and see the country.”
He said getting to train with the simulator is an added benefit that will help make him an even better driver.
“I didn’t think I would have the opportunity to use a simulator. It’s very useful, especially for hazardous weather. I can see how it will really help me.”