Careers & Training, Driver education, Driver training

Cutting edge simulator showcases new career path

A truck simulator that was originally acquired to help truckies negotiate the treacherous South Eastern Freeway descent into Adelaide is also proving a big hit with school-age truck fans.

At a recent careers expo in Adelaide, the South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA), which has owned the $550,000 simulator since 2020, estimates that a large chunk of the 10,000 youngsters through the door stopped by to experience it first-hand.

Only one person at a time can be in the hot seat, but there was invariably a decent crowd outside watching what’s happening inside the simulator on the giant TV screen outside, said SARTA executive director Steve Shearer.

“They can also see a bunch of data about speed, revs, gears, braking and all those sorts of things, and we can have conversations with them about that,” he added.

“The idea of that is that when you’ve actually got a student driver inside the simulator, an instructor outside can be discussing with others what the one inside is doing and what maybe they should be doing differently. That includes the fact that they’re checking their mirrors every eight seconds.

“You can see the ones that are actually interested, you can see it in their eyes, they’re not just standing around giggling with their mates.

“They’re quietly waiting their turn and when they come out you can just see it [genuine interest] in the almost supercilious grin.”

The school-age children are given five to six minutes on a simulated test track – normally driving a rigid – so they get the experience of coming out of a loading area and turning on to a track, turning right, turning left.

The simulator gives experienced truckies and newcomers a realistic experience, says SARTA.

“Some of them are big sweeping bends so they can get around a corner reasonably quickly.

“It gives them a real feel for what they could be driving if they come into the industry and become a truck driver.”

SARTA also now has the added bonus on site of an Isuzu SWB truck to show the students.

The truck was recently donated to SARTA by Northeast Auto Group to tow the HV Simulator to events and training sessions.

“We can point to that and say, well you can start off in one of these because you only need a car licence for this and then you can work your way up,” Shearer said.

“Having a professional truck driver talk to them in a classroom about driving is all fine, but put them in a very realistic truck simulator, where they’re in a truck seat with a truck gearbox, dashboard, big screens and a steering wheel, and they’re driving it, the impact is quite substantial.”

The only issue now for Shearer is bridging the gap that still exists in SA between school leavers and a pathway into the industry.

“I’ve been pushing for quite some years now against the frustrating decision of SafeWork agencies about 15 years ago when they unilaterally increased the minimum age for a high-risk licence, which includes forklift, from 16 to 18.

“We’ve still got the mechanic’s pathway, but that cut off one of our two major career pathways into the yard out of school.”

Shearer, however, is hopeful there could be some light at the end of this long tunnel with a recent changing of the guard in the state.

He’s successfully lobbied for a new flexible industry pathway (FIP) that starts next year, which also counts towards a student’s South Australian Certificate of Education.

Shearer hasn’t been able to include truck driving in that FIP due to the age factor, but is hopeful of a tick of approval for those aged 17.5 to start their forklift driver training in a “controlled” environment while in their final year at school.

“They can then get their forklift licence quickly and they’re up and away.”

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