Mastering the road in a virtual world
KPH Transport is a specialist temperature-controlled produce transporter with a fleet of 30 trucks spread across its depots in Auckland and Palmerston North, and a sub-contracted truck fleet in the South Island.
The transport company had Guardian by Seeing Machines technology installed across its fleet for the past four years and after a conversation with Autosense National Sales Manager, Paul Fossi, KPH Training Manager Colin Unsworth decided to trial the Heavy Vehicle Simulator, which takes drivers through scenarios and aims to increase awareness in risk situations.
We trialled the simulator and the results showed some shortfalls in the drivers’ performances. KPH takes a proactive stance on health and safety and in my 17 years with the company, the upskilling of our drivers has always been a high priority.
"With a pool of 30 full time drivers, relief drivers and sub-contracted drivers - all with varying experience - KPH wanted to ‘normalise’ the risks facing its heavy fleet drivers every day" says Colin.
“While operating heavy vehicles requires specialist skills, there are numerous risks facing drivers from unforeseen road events, vehicle malfunctions and driver mistakes. Winter also presents unique challenges with icy conditions, particularly on New Zealand’s east coast and in the South Island, making driving treacherous,” explains Colin.
“As vehicles have become more equipped with advanced technology, a level of complacency was creeping into some driving practices. Another challenge facing us is that we can’t provide in our regular driver training all the scenarios that drivers may face while on the job, including tyre blowouts and the like. The Heavy Vehicle Simulator is the perfect place to test these scenarios and our drivers’ abilities.”
For KPH, the simulator sitting in the corner of a branch carpark and only requiring single phase power makes it quick and easy to set up. Each session takes around 30 minutes, meaning drivers are not off the road for long.
After KPH trialled the simulator in the first year with 80 drivers, the company now utilises it every 12 months, putting around 20 to 30 drivers through the programme each time to improve and refresh their skills as part of the company’s Health and Safety programme. Autosense also offers specialised classroom style training to help drivers who may need further coaching.
The simulator tests how alert you are, your observation skills and your reactions. It throws all sorts of things at the drivers, someone walking straight in front of your truck, a car coming out from nowhere, navigating a tight turning area, or a blown tyre on a busy highway.
“While modern heavy vehicles now have a lot of safety electronics and technology inside them to assist with driving, the simulator also helps drivers learn about how to use that technology. The drivers love the simulator sessions and they discuss the benefits between themselves, which has a positive spinoff when they’re on the road remembering what they’ve learned. The heavy vehicle simulator is a chance for drivers to reset and get feedback about how they’re driving,” says Colin.
Autosense works in collaboration with KPH to create the scenarios, depending on what KPH wants to test. Paul says working this way ensures the most relevant training is given.
“We’re not teaching people to drive, we’re putting them in situations to test their responses. Events that might happen in real life but you’re unable to train for them safely. But if they’ve practiced and it comes up in real life, they’ll know what to do.”
The simulator also measures fuel efficiency and with the conditions being the same for every driver, it’s a more equitable result and comparisons can be fairly made. Once the drivers have finished their sessions, a report is generated and shared with KPH.
“We’ll definitely do more truck sessions in the simulator in the future as we need to keep all of our drivers up to date and our trucks compliant. We’re truckies who are embracing technology.”
Read more about KPH Transport here.
If we can save one life because of better driving skills learned in the simulator, we’ve achieved something. The driver is the key element in the truck – it doesn’t matter how much technology the trucks have, it’s the driver who is ultimately in charge.
Colin Unsworth, Training Manager, KPH Transport