After 22 years as a fleet manager, Wally Anthony knew he needed a change. That’s when he learned he was transferring to orientation services to lead a new project-—the Prime Simulator Training Lab. That was 2009. In the 10 years since, Anthony has helped up to 12,000 Prime drivers each year get behind the wheel of one of 10 simulation machines at Prime’s hub in Springfield, Missouri. Made by the Utah-based company L3, the newly updated simulation machines provide drivers with a realistic driving experience. The engine rumbles around you when the key is turned. The console’s design is identical to a Freightliner with the matching wheel, instruments, pedals and more.
But to make the simulation even more lifelike, the entire seat console moves. When the simulated truck slides on ice, the driver and the seat slide, too. “This is the closest thing to a truck as it gets,” Anthony says. “When the roads are slick in a scenario, the seat console will slide, and you’ll feel the truck move. So when you’re driving too fast, you’ll feel it and see it.”
Anthony doesn’t just work with Prime student drivers in the simulation lab. He also trains veteran drivers who have years of driving under their belts. New students complete simpler scenarios including successfully hauling a load to the bottom of a hill in light snow. For veterans, Anthony adds wind and a blizzard to the same scenario to help seasoned drivers experience especially hazardous conditions safely.
“What we drive home with our Prime student drivers is what we stress for everybody, which is to drive for conditions,” Anthony says. “The scenarios help all drivers get back to the basics of driving for what’s ahead of you, always looking forward, checking your mirrors. It’s always about driving with safety in mind.”
Prime student drivers complete 10 hours in the simulation lab as part of their initial training when they drive Prime’s fleet of drivers. But Anthony points out that all Prime drivers can gain a benefit from driving in the simulation lab.
“For Prime student drivers, there is no grade on the simulation machine; this isn’t a test,” he says. “It’s an exercise to help drivers know how to parallel park without having to worry about hitting a pole. If a driver comes in here and makes a mistake, we talk about it and try again. I want them to make mistakes, because in here if you cause a major wreck, we just do the simulation again. If we can avoid just one serious accident, we’ve both done our jobs.”
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