Technology used to train much-needed learner truck drivers

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Learning to drive a truck can be tricky. In addition to the pressure of busy roads, it takes the precision and skill to maneuver a large and heavy vehicle – often in difficult circumstances, such as on narrow streets or in difficult weather conditions.

In the UK, obtaining a HGV license can take on average between six and eight weeks of training. To be eligible for a heavy goods vehicle license, candidates must be at least 18 years old, hold a CAP Driver (Certificate of Professional Competence) and pass a theoretical and practical exam.

The increased use of internet deliveries is contributing to an increase in the number of vans and heavy trucks using the roads. According to the RAC Foundation, it is estimated that by 2050 vans will account for 16% of all traffic, while heavy truck traffic is expected to increase by 12%. However, the decline in the number of experienced HGV drivers in the UK is a major cause for concern across the country. Without a sufficient level of qualified drivers, supply could be severely affected and the prices of many goods could skyrocket.

Addressing this shortage is key to maintaining supply chains, meeting customer demands and sustaining economic momentum.

Although training new drivers can be time consuming, having a group of fully qualified drivers to help solve the problem is essential. As experienced drivers retire or move on to other careers, new drivers must take their place. So how should companies encourage individuals to acquire their heavyweight qualification?

Emily Hardy, road safety expert at Brigade Electronics UK, said: “Trying to attract new talent is a difficult process. Offering higher salaries and more attractive packages are short-term measures already implemented by many companies. However, safety and the right level of driver assistance are also crucial factors not only in attracting applicants, but also in ensuring that they want to pursue a long-term career in the industry.

Installing vehicle security and CCTV devices on heavy-duty trucks helps address many of the challenges faced by drivers and operators, including learners and new heavy-duty truck drivers.

As the number of safety initiatives for large vehicles increases, technology is proving to be an invaluable resource in helping drivers, especially when it comes to visibility and eliminating complex blind spots.

Emily continues: “Whether installed as part of road regulations or to improve fleet safety, it is essential that learner drivers learn to use these systems as more and more fleets adopt this technology.

“Road safety research has shown that in the time it takes to scan four mirrors, assess and then react to hazards, a vehicle can travel up to 10 meters. Cameras, such as Brigade’s Backeye®360, which provide 360-degree visibility via a single in-cab monitor, allow the driver to see everything in close proximity to the vehicle, including pedestrians and cyclists, who might find themselves in a blind spot position.”

The size of modern commercial vehicles means they are potentially very dangerous machines, often traveling through narrow streets filled with parked cars where there is limited room to maneuver. The risk of accidents is even greater at night or in winter weather conditions when the cameras may struggle to provide a clear image.

Ultrasonic Obstacle Detection Systems alert the driver to the presence of obstacles near the vehicle, whether moving or stationary. An audible and/or visual in-cab warning is triggered, while external voice alarms can be added to warn nearby cyclists and pedestrians.

The next generation of collision avoidance systems from Brigade Electronics have been developed using artificial intelligence technology and supported by the Knowledge Transfer Partnership initiative with the University of Cambridge. The result – Sidescan®Predict – was extensively tested in 2020 with impressive results.

Through the use of AI, the Sidescan®Predict sensor continuously collects object detection data such as the speed and distance of a nearby cyclist or pedestrian. This data feeds an algorithm created by Brigade to accurately assess the risk of collision. When a hazard is detected, the driver is instantly alerted in time to take evasive action.

Sidescan®Predict is always activated, including at speeds below 30 km/h. And most importantly, collision protection is active with or without the indicators lit. This is particularly important as it is known that some drivers become irritated by false alerts, even avoiding the use of indicators so that their system does not trigger alerts, potentially endangering vulnerable road users.

Back-up alarms are another key safety system, with modern iterations, such as Brigade Electronics’ award-winning White Sound range, providing instantly locatable alarms that cause less noise pollution as they are only heard in the danger zone .

Security upgrades such as these can all be installed on a vehicle within hours. The improvement they can make in road safety is incalculable and the peace of mind they provide drivers is invaluable.

Dashboard cameras and vehicle CCTV provide an added layer of security and help fleet operators manage drivers traveling long distances for long periods of time.

Emily added: “Commercial vehicle safety technology gives operators and drivers confidence that they are doing everything possible to protect themselves and other road users.”

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