Simulator Provides Unique Driving Experience for CDL Students

Putting the new L3Harris TranSim Truck Driving Simulator through some test runs at the SCCTC CDL Training Center recently were (top, from left) instructor Brain Eso, students Herman Nissley and Jay Dennison, and instructor Dale Fisher. Above, Bill desRosiers (left) of Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation stopped into the CDL school to get a look at the new driving simulator with SCCTC executive director Alice Davis and instructor Gary Fenton.

Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation recently purchased a L3Harris TranSim Truck Driving Simulator for the Susquehanna County Career & Technology Center’s CDL training facility. It adds a crucial teaching tool to a new program geared to fill driving positions across the region and provide family-sustaining jobs for local residents.

The simulator will provide students with an enormous range of virtual conditions, as well as mechanical and natural elements that require absolute concentration of drivers of tankers, tractor trailers and other large vehicles. Use of the unit will be paired with on-road instruction, in addition to classroom discussions.

SCCTC CDL instructor Dale Fisher stresses that “It’s a simulator, not a duplicator. The only way to get the real-world experience is to go out into the real world. But this is about as close as you can get to reality.”

Students strap themselves into a truck seat, start the engine, do a systems check and put their “rig” into gear, heading off into an imagined driving scenario portrayed on three high-definition screens. Using several computers simultaneously, the instructor chooses the appropriate program level for the driver, which determines maximum speed and variables such as fog, wind gusts and an occasional deer running across the road. The seat can be set into motion too, emulating the feeling of traversing a rough roadway or reacting to an obstacle.

It’s those inconsistencies that make this top-of-the-line unit so valuable. Even when the students are ready to move from the school’s paved driving range to rural roads and eventually highways, the instructors cannot make an animal cross the road on cue nor bring on a sudden snow squall. Learning involves muscle memory, instructor Brian Eso explained. “It’s about how your body will react when you hear or feel something.”

Another program allows students to practice shifting without visual distractions. “That way, they’re not tearing up a transmission or risking injury to the public,” Fisher remarked.

The unit records and analyses the data from each test run and rates the driver’s abilities in areas like speed control, braking and maintaining safe distances from other vehicles. A camera mounted above the windshield records the driver’s movements. “If they tell us that they are keeping and eye on their mirrors and they are not,” Eso noted, “We can show them.”

SCCTC executive director Dr. Alice Davis gave the unit a test run shortly after it was installed and said that she sees the driving simulator as both an important instrument for the students and a recruitment tool for the CDL school. Potential students will have an opportunity to climb into the simulator and go for a test run at a July 15 open house event, even if they are not old enough to drive a real truck.

This will give them a chance to see if truck driving feels right to them before they spend their money,” said Davis, who expressed gratitude for Cabot’s generous donation of the $98,400 unit.

Cabot external affairs manager Bill desRosiers noted that the simulator will also be made available to high school students are not old enough to drive a real truck to experiment and practice driving skills. “We are thrilled that the new CDL classes are now underway and that Cabot can continue to invest in future truckers,” desRosisers stated, adding that he looks forward to stopping back at the school and taking his own test run after the instructors have become more familiar with the machine.

CDL student Fred Shiptoski gets some last-minute instruction from Dale Fisher as he puts his virtual rig into gear for a test drive of the simulator.

CDL student Jay Dennison checks his side mirror as he makes his way down the virtual highway.

CDL student Herman Nissley glances down at his gauges as he continues down a simulated road.

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