“Trucking is the linchpin of the nation’s supply chain,” said John Kearney (pictured above), CEO of Advanced Training Systems LLC (ATS), who added, “The TSA clearly understands that drivers will be front and center in remaining on the alert for supply-related threats.”
ATS said a major obstacle to the unimpeded flow of these shipments, both from a safety and logistical standpoint, is a severe and growing shortage of long-haul truck drivers. Recent estimates put the shortage at 60,000 drivers — a number that could easily reach 100,000 in just a few years, the company said.
To close the gap, the National Association of Chemical Distributors, among others, has been lobbying for the passage of the 2018 DRIVE-Safe Act, which would lower the federal age requirement for interstate drivers from 21 to 18. Electronic simulators could play a major role in preparing new long-haul truckers, Kearney said.
One significant advantage of simulators over traditional behind-the-wheel training is equipment cost. Simulator training is substantially less expensive than an actual tractor-trailer highway rig. Kearney said another, and in some ways more important advantage, is the ability in a simulator to encounter and learn to cope with driving situations that are either too rare or too dangerous for behind-the-wheel training, such as black ice, blinding snow or heavy winds.
Simulators are “standard for the aviation industry,” said Kearney, “and it should be for the motor freight industry as well. The nation’s economy — and the security of its supply chain — depend on a corps of technologically adept, well-trained operators ready to deal with any situation they encounter. They deserve the best possible training, and we deserve for them to have it.”
In addition to the 35 voting members, six federal departments and agencies with regulatory authority over one or more modes of surface transportation have designated representatives to serve as nonvoting members of the STSAC. There are 14 nonvoting members designated to the committee serving in an advisory capacity from the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Transportation, Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Transportation Safety Board.