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Semi simulator training students at North Arkansas College

Drivers as young as 18 could soon be driving interstates.
Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 5:26 PM CDT
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HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) - North Arkansas College is using a new truck driver simulator along with its 15-week training course for truck drivers working towards a commercial driver’s license.

The simulator, purchased with a Regional Workforce Grant, teaches students the basics of how to drive a semi before they ever get behind the wheel of a real truck. The simulator consists of three screens, representing what a person sees from a windshield and windows, and a “cab” with control pedals, gauges, knobs, and switches.

Northark Truck Driving Instructor Charlie Duggan can throw a variety of problems at the students, and they must figure out how to handle the situations. The simulations are tied to the curriculum and show students’ proficiencies in maneuvers, risk awareness, and night-time driving among other things.

Federal law requires truck drivers to be 21-years-old and have a commercial driver’s license. That could soon change. The DRIVE Safe Act drops the federal minimum-age requirement to 18, for truck drivers who can operate across states.

”I feel like if they’re responsible enough at 18 to join the military and go fight for our country, they’re probably responsible enough to drive a truck,” said Duggan.

At North Arkansas College, students are trained as young as 18 to get CDL’s, which can be used within the state under current laws.

”Right now, under 21 since you can’t cross state lines it is hard to get a job using your CDL and will actually get you to experience through that CDL,” said Derek Underwood, a 19-year-old student who is going through the program.

Part of that experience is finding new ways to train, which is exactly what the simulator is. The program allows drivers to be placed into risky situations without real-life consequences.

”You take a younger [student] with the technology like this, they’re more excited about using it and it does translate from there out onto the yard on how well they can maneuver around,” said Duggan.

“It builds that confidence, see when I started here they put me on that simulator first and that really helped me because I was just scared to death to get in that truck,” said Underwood. “When I got in that simulator it feels better, so once you get that confidence you can get out and start to practice.”

”It’s another tool that we can use to put them in situations that we couldn’t in real life such as night time, driving in the snow and ice, tire blowouts,” Duggan explained. “Because the name of the game is getting them a little more comfortable so that they’re not nervous and panicking when we get them out in the actual truck.”

Click here for more information on North Arkansas College’s Truck Driver Program.

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