Springfield trucking company puts drivers on simulators before roads

Springfield trucking company puts drivers on simulators before roads

Reposted from KSPR.com.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Those who drive them have called semis 80,000-pound missiles but only, they say, if the people operating them don't know what they're doing.  At Prime Incorporated, based in Springfield and one of the largest trucking companies in the country, they say it's safety-first.

Training to drive with Prime starts in a classroom, not on the road.  It's a long road to get to the road.  Even those who have driven for other companies take computer tests and what Prime calls the most realistic test available to ensure they're road ready.

It's like an arcade for adults.  Only the object is to get through this course without killing anybody.

Josh Bishop sat behind the wheel of a giant simulator on Wednesday afternoon.  He has been a truck driver for six years but not for Prime, so he has to master this virtual road before the company will put him on the real road.  He already knows the real road can be hazardous.

"A lady side-swiped me about a year ago," Bishop said.

He didn't cause the collision but he still felt bad.

"I was worried about her."

Instructor Wally Anthony's job is to teach drivers how to avoid those situations whenever possible.

"All of our drivers have to go through the simulators before they go out on a truck, and the simulators are really neat because I can sit there and watch a gentleman drive and tell he's hitting his gears, checking his mirrors, keeping it in the lanes, the correct speed, that they're looking down the road," and thinking ahead, Anthony said, because time is not on their side.

Stopping a semi truck is no easy task.  A truck traveling 60 miles an hour will take the length of two football fields to gradually come to a complete stop.  Then once a driver does stop, he has another distance to consider.

"Ten foot ahead, so when you're stopped at a stoplight you want at least ten feet between you and the vehicle in front of you," said Anthony.

Anthony says not every driver demonstrates the awareness behind the wheel that Prime seeks.

"Out of 40 students, we might send three home."

Bishop probably isn't one of them.  He almost beat the game -- almost.

"It would have been better if I got all 100s," he said, grinning, looking down at three categories on his results sheet.  Two are 100 percent, one is 99 percent.

Drivers who haven't driven before have to spend at least 75 hours in the actual truck with a trainer.  Sometimes they drive for as many as 150 supervised hours, and that's after the simulator and all the classroom work.

Veteran drivers with Prime do a review on the simulator every year.  If one gets into what Prime defines as a preventable accident on the real road, he or she meets with the company's safety board to determine if more training is needed.

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