How Virtual Reality Is Changing Truck Driver Training

Imagine getting hired to a trucking company. You just negotiated a great rate and now you’re standing out in the lot looking at a shiny new Class 8 big rig. It’s yours to drive, there’s just one little thing left: Training.

In days of yore, training was conducted on-site and in-cab, with the new employee operating the commercial motor vehicle (CMV) under the supervision of an experienced truck driver or company trainer.

Fast-forward and today we’re looking at virtual reality (VR)-based training. Technologies have matured to such a point that now new truck drivers can enter a machine and experience something not too dissimilar from actually driving a loaded up tractor trailer.

But is VR really the answer? Furthermore, can it provide the same level real-world responses that rookie truck drivers need to properly hone their skills? Potentially yes, and it could possibly do even more than that.

How VR and Trucking Intersect

Advanced tech-based training methods can help the trucking industry in a variety of ways. Not only are these systems a great way to teach new truckers, but they can also help combat the seemingly never-ending employment squeeze.

Offering VR-based training helps expand the pool of candidates. If trucking and trade schools that offer CDL and other pre-licensure training modules also cover new truck driver training through VR, graduates will leave the school far readier for their first trucking job then someone who did not get the same type of training.

Another great aspect of VR-training is that the training environment can be modified depending on the company’s need. If a trucking company must deal with treacherous mountain paths in the winter and heavy city traffic in the summer, the training program can be changed to accommodate the new seasons.

Quite frankly, it’s also a great tool for experienced truckers who would like to brush up on some basic skills and knowledge after years in service. There are a lot of benefits to the new technology, and with big-name players getting in on the game, expect game-changing innovations to continue apace.

UPS Enters the Space

If there is a new trend in shipping, receiving, trucking or anything else related to those three factors, you can expect UPS to either be considering it or already testing or using it. In this case, VR is no exception.

By the end of 2018, UPS expects to have 4,000 truck drivers trained on the technology. They are fully investing in training facilities and technology in both Atlanta and Florida, with more in the works for the rest of the country.

Not only will UPS have trained its 4,000 new workers on VR, but they expect to have around 6 percent of its workforce – approximately 65,000 people – trained on the technology by 2018. For now, UPS plans to roll out the technology for delivery drivers only and will reassess their use for heavy-duty Class 8 tuckers once the data has been analyzed and new processes put into place.

The Game’s Afoot

VR equipment has been dropping in price for some time now. As the technology becomes more ubiquitous, electronics manufacturers like HTC have more room to drop their devices to a more desirable price.

As an example, the HTC Vive headsets used to be $599, but can now be found brand-new for around $200. Facebook-owned Oculus Rift announced a similar price cut way back in 2014.

With other companies like VR Motion and Virage Simulation Inc. getting in on the game, producing quality trucker training products, and cutting prices to stay competitive, the truck training VR game is just starting to heat up.