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San Antonio Adopts a Vehicle Simulation System for City Employees

By Cait Etherington
July 18, 2018

Today marks the July 18th deadline for San Antonio’s request for proposals for a virtual truck training program. The Texas city issued their request for an “interactive modular driving simulator/training system” in mid June. While the request may seem out of the norm, many larger cities across the United States and around the world already train bus, subway, and work vehicle drivers using vehicle simulation systems. The same trend is evident in the private sector where large trucking companies like UPS are adopting vehicle simulations as a key part of their training programs. Among other benefits, these systems have been found to produce safer drivers and reduce training costs over time.

San Antonio’s Current Request for Proposals

San Antonio’s current request for proposals calls for vendors who can develop a vehicle simulation system for their Solid Waste Management Department (SWMD). As outlined in the proposal, “The simulator will be used as part of a comprehensive driver training program for employees of SWMD, as well as an assessment tool to conduct pre-employment screenings of perspective applicants.” Specifically, the bid asks vendors to provide details on how they plan to offer the city’s SWMD trainees with “a driving simulator, an interfaced instructor console, and all required hardware, software, cables and connecting devices, shipping/handling, delivery, installation, comprehensive warranty, scheduled maintenance, service and repair, technical support, on-site operational training, and continued instructor support.” Realism is also an essential part of the city’s request. Among other specifications, the bid asks for a realistic replicate of the ambient noise of the in-cabin sounds their drivers will experience on the job.

Praise for Vehicle Simulation Systems

If vehicle simulation systems are currently gaining popularity with municipalities like San Antonio as well as private transportation companies, safety concerns are likely a driving factor.

Workplace fatalities are still a growing problem in many industries, especially the transportation industry. A 2016 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that there were 5,190 fatal work injuries in 2016, a 7 percent increase over 2015. The same report concluded, “Work injuries involving transportation incidents remained the most common fatal event in 2016, accounting for 40 percent (2,083).” The report also found that even in industries were transportation is not the only or primary activity (e.g., construction and agriculture), fatalities on the job tended to involve vehicles. The need for more safety training for vehicle operators is obvious, and this is one reason why vehicle simulations are currently gaining ground across industries.

Among other advantages, vehicle simulation systems offer opportunities to put trainees into situations they may otherwise never encounter during a training session, including those that involve rare but potential fatal situations and conditions. By reducing some training costs, including instructor time, it is also possible to increase the number of hours that drivers train prior to getting behind the wheel of an actual vehicle.

Simulations Are An Increasingly Cost-Efficient Option

To adopt a simulation system, organizations typically need to make a substantial initial investment, especially if they want vendors to customize each simulation to effectively replicate their workers’ environment. However, over time, the cost savings can be easily recuperated. Among other things, by relying on a simulation system, organizations can save on fuel cost, truck maintenance, tires, insurance, and of course, instructor wages and benefits. Virage Simulation, a vehicle training company based in Montreal estimates that the cost savings may run as high as $91,000 per year based on 2000 training hours. While a simulation system may not be a feasible option for a very small operation, for larger operations, the benefits are clear. There is hope, however, that as the cost of VR technologies continue to drop, even smaller companies and organizations may soon be able to benefit from vehicle simulation systems.

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