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Training to Transport, Truck Driving Simulator Aids CDL Students

Spring 2008 | Archives

semi-truck The diesel truck rumbles into motion and begins to approach an intersection. The driver checks his mirrors, turns and starts heading south. From his left mirror, he sees his brakes smoking. He adjusts for this but then his engine fails. And the light rain turns into a full-on thunderstorm. Suddenly, a green sedan weaves into his lane, heading straight for him. What does he do?

Training future commercial truck drivers to prepare for these hazards is just why MCC´s CDL Program began using a driving simulator in February 2006. The machine may appear like a large, state-of-the-art video game, but CDL instructors Rick Sandvig and Midhat Terzic are quick to clarify that this is not a $120,000 toy.

"The simulator can point out hazards that we can´t simulate in real life to train students on what to do with their own driving," Terzic said. "We can undergo dangerous scenarios without putting ourselves and our students in distress."

The simulator, located at the Applied Technology Center, sits in a small room. The simulator´s high definition video screens resemble those of a semi truck´s windshield and front windows. The dashboard consoles and gauges are similar as well. The machine responds to the computer-programmed scenarios running, meaning a blown tire feels like a blown tire to the driver, complete with the rumbling sensation in the cab.

Sandvig said the simulator allows instructors to work with students on their skills and control of the clutch, shifting and the throttle in addition to the programmed hazards. In 20 to 30 minute simulations, students typically run through one of the simulator´s preprogrammed scenarios. The instructors can opt to throw in additional hazards and challenges. Weather, equipment failures, road surface, time of day, and DUI conditions are all things the instructor can manipulate from a small computer in the simulator room.

"We want to make sure the driver notices these failures," Terzic said.

The simulator program records the entire simulation run and logs any errors and/or failures the driver encounters as well as their corrections and adjustments to these. If a student challenges or questions a mistake, the instructor can replay their drive to show them the error objectively.

"We tell our students the first thing is safety. Safety first," Sandvig said. Both he and Terzic have firsthand knowledge and experience driving trucks to back this up. Sandvig has 30 years experience as a truck driver, and Terzic has 12. They combine the interactive simulator instruction with classroom and lab time, but agree that a good attitude makes a good driver and a good student.

"We stand behind our product: our students," Terzic said. Since the program´s inception in 2005, more than 90 percent of students completing are hired right away, a percentage soon to increase as the hiring process is finalized for four recent grads. CDL Program graduates have been employed by nearly 20 different trucking companies, and some students choose to work for themselves.

And the training, education and employment comes at a good time. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. trucking industry employed 3.4 million drivers in 2006. By 2016, the number of truck driving jobs is expected to increase by 258,000.

To find out more about the CDL Program, visit www.mccneb.edu or call (402) 457-2400.


Truck Driver Slang

Truck driver slang became popular during the CB radio crazes of the 1970s and 1980s, but some terms are still used today. Here´s a sampling of the often colorful lingo.CB Radio

  • Smokey, Bear: police officer
  • Hammer: accelerator pedal
  • Handle: nickname
  • 10/4: affirmative
  • 20: driver´s location
  • Chicken coop: weigh station
  • Taking your picture: a police officer using a radar gun to check vehicle speed
  • Cash box: toll plaza
  • Pickle Park: highway rest area
  • Plain white wrapper: white unmarked police vehicle
  • Salt shaker: snowplow
  • On your back door: a vehicle that is behind you

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