Fleet News

Fleets could benefit from greater access to driving simulators

Pioneering technology designed and built to mitigate work related road risk through training and development is saving lives both in the public and private sectors.

Balfour Beatty developed the first driving simulator to be utilised in a commercial environment as part of a wider driver risk management programme.

Drivers, whose risk areas are identified through a Driver Risk Index (DRI), receive one of several custom-built scenarios designed to target and mitigate their particular driving risks.

However, the technology is expensive to develop and beyond the reach of most fleets, which is why greater access to such state-of-the-art facilities would be welcomed by at-work drivers up and down the country.

Both Balfour Beatty and South Wales Police have told Fleet News that they hope to give wider access to their own driving simulators.

The technology was the star attraction at the South Wales Police Driver Training Unit where thanks to an event hosted by Driving for Better Business and Professional Driving Services businesses were able to use the hardware.

“This was the first time the business fraternity were able to sample the technology,” explains Sgt Gareth Morgan, who manages driving training for South Wales Police

“As a result, we are now speaking with several groups to scope out how we can further utilise the simulator for work-related driving assessments for the business world in the future, to help improve road safety locally in South Wales and on a national level.”

Attendee Helen Marshall, from Alan Curtis Solicitors, told Fleet News: “I certainly found it an interesting and informative experience and can see the applications could be many and varied.

“I thought the set up with the mirror views was particularly effective, so you felt you were using the rear view and side mirrors very effectively.”

Meanwhile, Balfour Beatty in addition to its existing driving simulator is looking to invest significantly in a mobile version, which is built into an expandable trailer.

“It is anticipated that this will cost between £600,000 and £800,000 dependent on the specifications,” says driver risk manager Robert Lindsay.  

“It will be introduced alongside our existing simulator and will be used to target external business as well as just in house.”

Currently, Balfour Beatty is seeking financial contributions from key suppliers and like minded organisations who would like to utilise the trailer for training, exhibitions and safety events.

“In return they will receive the opportunity to advertise their brand, demonstrate their commitment to safety and sustainability, and also develop their employees through our award winning programme,” says Lindsay.

The company envisages that the mobile simulator will be operational in the second quarter of 2011.

“Anything that make drivers think about the implications of their actions on the road has to be a good thing,” says James Sutherland of Peak Performance.

But despite huge strides in computer generated imagery and the rendering of moving graphics, Sutherland argues the driver’s experience still isn’t comparable to the real thing.

“You’re painfully aware that you’re part of a one dimensional graphic representation of a road scenario and there isn’t enough dynamic interaction with the vehicle, as would be the case in real life,” adds Sutherland.

“I’m sure there are exciting developments to come in the future but from Peak Performance’s point of view there is still no substitute for conventional driver training if you want to alter drivers’ mindsets for the better.”

Click here for driver training best practice and procurement insight

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