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Simulating safety behind the wheel

A heavy vehicle driver simulator is a high-tech tool being used to educate transport professionals and the public about the risks associated with getting goods from one end of the country to the other.

Crombie Lockwood Masterton recently partnered with insurer NZI to bring a heavy vehicle simulator to town for a client training session with Brausch Contracting Ltd (BCL). It was a virtual experience that also sparked plenty of public interest.

“It was a great opportunity to test drive a truck and see what that experience was like in a simulated capacity,” says Masterton Group Broking Manager, Angela Moylan.

A wide variety of people came along to find out what it feels like to be in the driver's seat, from commercial property owners to solicitors, and even a local transport owner-operator who brought along some passionate younger family members.

Feedback from those that attended was that it was insightful to witness how truck drivers have to navigate the roads, and that they would be more considerate when driving around heavy vehicles in the future.

Real road hazards, virtually

Taupo-headquartered company AutoSense is behind the simulator, which features all the controls associated with accurately simulating heavy vehicle operation, from a Mack truck to passenger buses.

Housed in a trailer, AutoSense takes the simulator around New Zealand providing competency reports to measure driver skills, and offering practical tips and tools to help mitigate on-road incidents. Crombie Lockwood Masterton organised for the simulator to pay a visit in April.

The AutoSense trailer which houses the heavy vehicle simulator

AutoSense helps shed light on the risks heavy vehicle drivers face

“The system puts a driver through a series of scenarios that they might encounter on a daily basis… and what they can do to avoid tricky situations,” says NZI Fleet Risk Manager, Craig Ewens.

“These can range from adverse weather conditions to a pedestrian walking out into the road. The benefit is these scenarios are shown within a safe environment. They can put participants through real life hazards and scenarios in the simulator at no risk of physical damage or financial loss. It’s effective and provides instant feedback on learnings. Any sort of risk mitigation campaign or device like this is a great learning tool.”

The company also has other virtual reality technology that simulates machinery operation, such as excavators and forklifts. Craig says the simulator is also an effective recruitment tool, helping to attract drivers to a range of industries.

“I think it’s a really good eye-opener for people within the transport industry to actually spend time in the seminar and go have a bit of a play in the simulator, just to get a bit more awareness around how stuff can go very bad really quickly.”
- Brooke Brausch, Brausch Contracting Limited director.

Eye-opening reminders

Wairarapa logging transport company BCL attended the recent NZI Driver Safety Awareness Seminar hosted by Craig, which is part of the NZI Fleet Fit programme.

The seminar detailed fleet risk management, training tools, driver data analytics and best practices behind the wheel. From an insurance perspective, training and information seminars such as these are an important part in helping businesses minimise the chances of needing to use their insurance overall, which benefits everyone.

“NZI’s presentation covered some valuable details around how to act like a professional when driving a truck; things like how diet and hydration can impact on your awareness and capability. Craig also showed images and videos of several things that can happen quickly when you don’t act with caution,” says Angela.

“He gave attendees the visual of what could happen in real life. The truck simulator was a really important component to practise some of those situations.”

Two test drivers trying out the AutoSense heavy vehicle simulator

Test drivers using the AutoSense heavy vehicle simulator

Getting home safe

BCL Director, Brooke Brausch, has spent 25 years in the transport industry and five years running BCL. He says the simulator experience for him and his team was surreal and something he would recommend to all heavy vehicle operators.

“Anything can happen in a split second that could end up being fatal, he says.

At the end of the day, avoiding any incident on the road is about far more than saving a business time and money. It’s about getting everyone home safe.”

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Published June 2023