In an effort to reduce fatal truck collisions in the province, the KwaZulu-Natal department of transport has launched a three-dimensional truck simulator — a first for South Africa.
The mobile simulator, constructed in a caravan, is part of a two-phase pilot project intended to improve the skills of truck drivers.
Project manager Jolene Boulton said the first part of the project is to aid drivers through e-learning sessions on a computer.
“The project is aimed at dealing with pertinent issues that affect truck drivers. The first part of the course includes checking the vehicle before it is driven, what issues might be wrong with the vehicle if certain signals appear and how to resolve them. The whole project is aimed at giving drivers the extra edge,” she said.
After the first phase of the course is completed, the driver then begins the truck simulation.
The caravan that houses the truck simulator is fitted with a computer to monitor and change scenarios which the driver is faced with, such as pedestrians on the road, other traffic, day and night conditions, as well as extreme weather conditions like rain and snow.
While driving the simulator, the driver is seated in what appears to be a regular truck seat, fitted with hydraulics to mimic the inertia experienced in a vehicle.
The driver’s view is as it would be from inside the vehicle, with three projectors displaying views of the front, left and right while the driver’s actions are monitored by camera.
The simulator was built by TMI Dynamatics, a company specialising in the creation of hardware and software for car and plane simulators. TMI Dynamatics developed South Africa’s first truck simulator featuring KwaZulu-Natal’s high-accident zones on Van Reenen’s Pass, Town Hill and the M13 at Fields Hill.
While the simulator might seem to be a glorified videogame, Wouter Roos, TMI Dynamatics’ developer of the simulator, said it was designed more to put the driver in a real-life scenario.
“The project started in December last year and we began construction in January. We built the simulator to give an exact feel of what the truck is like,” he said.
Boulton said the project was not a punitive measure but rather aimed to give drivers extra confidence in handling scenarios on the road.
“This is part of the solution to save lives on the road. Legislation does not require this education but it is part of the road safety programme. Employers will even be able to verify this assessment with drivers and we are encouraging trucking companies to allow their drivers to do this assessment,” she said.
The simulator was built to be mobile to train truck drivers at the premises they work at. — The Witness