Trainers turn to Virtual Reality to teach new HGV drivers

One of the UK’s largest HGV training companies has turned to Virtual Reality technology to help prospective drivers learn key safety procedures more effectively and get test-ready quicker amid a shortage of available training vehicles.

Over the past few months, the UK has suffered a shortage of more than 100,000 qualified HGV drivers. and the pandemic also made it harder for new drivers to access the necessary training and tests. More recently, the number of drivers wanting to train has outnumbered the number of vehicles available for them to learn in.

HGV training company Easy As HGV, which works with over ninety driver training centres across the UK, has launched a new project to get new drivers on the road faster in 2022. Partnering with immersive training firm Virti, they’re improving the training process through the use of fully immersive VR simulations and 360-degree video content.

The VR simulations have been designed to make it easier for candidates to learn and practice some of the core skills required to acquire their HGV license. The companies say trials show that VR technology can increase the accuracy of decision making, improve learning retention rates, and improve performance by up to 230%

In the last six months, enquiries to train with Easy As HGV have accelerated by 400%. On average, they train up to 500 drivers per month. They say they hope this technology will allow them to improve test performance by 25%, to get more skilled HGV drivers on the road this year.

Filmed by the Virti team at an HGV driver training centre in Surrey, the VR training simulations allow trainees to follow an instructor through the walkaround pre-drive safety checks, the process for coupling and uncoupling the cab and load and how to carry out reversing manoeuvres.

The simulations can be accessed from anywhere using VR/AR headsets, or on desktop or mobile devices. They have been designed to complement Easy As HGV’s four-day intensive training course and will be offered to candidates for free to help them consolidate their knowledge and practice their skills in a realistic environment.

The new simulations have been created to train candidates for the Category C+E test, which is the license required to operate lorries that weigh over 3500kg and a trailer that weighs over 750kg. Typically, the process of training and acquiring a large vehicle license takes eight to ten weeks.

Tom McGhie, Managing Director at Easy As HGV comments, “It’s no secret that the HGV sector is in crisis. We desperately need to train up more drivers – and fast. We’re being inundated with enquiries and people are incredibly keen to learn. It’s therefore crucial that we can innovate to allow more people to come through the system, but that we use tools that uphold our commitment to safety and quality.

“This VR training is going to be invaluable as it will enable candidates to revise and practice the skills they learn in our training course before they take their test. It’s far more effective than having them read a textbook or watch a standard, non-interactive video. The tech has been designed to test and challenge our candidates, so that they’re better prepared for the test, and research indicates that they’ll retain this crucial safety information much more effectively as a result.

“The feedback from candidates so far has been overwhelmingly positive and we look forward to rolling the new training materials out further and seeing the impact over the coming weeks.”

The modules are fully interactive, testing learner drivers’ knowledge with questions designed to boost retention and help candidates develop a deeper understanding of key skills. The Virti platform generates detailed data and analytics on candidate performance to help them improve and spot gaps in their knowledge, and the simulations can be watched as often as is necessary until candidates feel confident in their abilities.

Dr Alex Young, CEO and founder of Virti, added, “For a long time, people tended to associate VR with gaming. But it’s in teaching and training scenarios that the technology really comes into its own. At Virti, we specialise in helping companies build data-driven, immersive deep learning tools to transform how people learn and help them remember skills and information for longer. We’re really excited to be working with Easy As HGV to help them respond quickly and effectively to the HGV driver shortage.

“We’ve built a set of simulations to speed up and improve the training process and qualify candidates more quickly using Virtual Reality. There’s no better way to embed learning and build confidence than to give people repeated opportunities to immerse themselves in the training scenario. Candidates will be able to access the new training tools using VR headsets or their mobile device, meaning they can easily access training sessions remotely and on the go.

“We’re delighted to be able to offer this technology to Easy As HGV candidates for free, to give them the very best chance of success.

“We look forward to seeing how the new tools impact the HGV driver training process – and hopefully get more drivers onto the roads safely and efficiently.”

(Picture – Crest Communications)

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