Truck driving students at Sampson Community College have a resource that will get them into gear to go on the road, and one that is not available at any other community college in the state — a truck driving simulator.
“It’s just like being in a regular truck,” said Fred Stamey, coordinator and lead trainer for Sampson Community College’s Truck Driver Training program. He said the simulator works well as a assessment tool, giving students an edge up on solving their problem areas.
“It has an assessment program that can tell you everything you’ve done wrong,” explained Stamey. This lets students work on whatever their problem is without being out in a truck on the road, allowing them to re-train themselves behind the wheel but NOT really behind the wheel.
“We can fix their problem in about 15 minutes,” he explained. “The simulator is a problem solver. Once we fix a problem everything will fall into place.” The school has had the simulator for about two years.
One goal on the horizon is trying to get grants and money to make the simulator mobile, allowing it to be even more of a training tool, particularly at local industries.
“We can customize it to serve trucking companies.” By getting the simulator mobile down the road, training could also be provided to companies on site as well as to local first responders.
“We want to have on-site training for student drivers so they can utilize it more,” said Stamey. Getting the simulator mobile won’t be easy. though.
“It has to be temperature controlled to prevent corrosion,” detailed Stamey. “It will be self-contained.” Problems like moisture damage are a concern. It will cost approximately $400,000 to get the right trailer.
“The trailer will have room to house (the simulator) in, as well as a classroom for 21 people,” Stamey mentioned. “There will also be offices up front. It would be considered a mobile safety unit and classroom.”
The SCC trucking program started in 2006 with 36 students and has grown into serving over 160 students in a year now. Stamey said that the program is extremely popular, and it has really grown with the simulator training being available.
“Students are able to work on specific problems and straighten it out with the simulator,” he explained. “Then a lot of other little problems will go away as well.”
Currently a student’s field training must be completed in Kenansville which is not very convenient, he said. Having the simulator gives the school the advantage of working on the problems in a controlled environment limiting concerns like wear and tear on the instructional vehicles.
Out at their training site, students have to deal with five different problems in an obstacle course, and if there is one particular piece that is causing a problem, the simulator is programmable to train and reteach the student through the issue. Trainees learn how to couple and uncouple a truck and trailer, work on backing and other skills.
Those skills are ones Stamey said drivers need every day, and getting them right is crucial to safety.
“This simulator is good in the safety aspect,” added Stamey.
He hopes that the school will get the software and switch out the seat in the simulator to get it ready for fire, police and rescue personnel to train in. Plus he said that it would be an option for BLET training as well.
“Then (the simulator) can travel to fire departments,” he said. It would be a great benefit to the the fire departments if he could travel to them, he said, since they are so scattered.
“Our program is now nationally known,” Stamey detailed. He said that companies from all over the country are looking to hire the school’s students.
“We have a focus on safety,” Stamey explained. Students coming directly out of school have clean CSA records, which means that they don’t have points or blemishes on their licenses. This is a boon to both the students and hiring company, and with the training, like what the simulator provides, these students are able to deal with their problem areas much more efficiently.
That efficiency translates into savings for the college, particularly on equipment.
“The simulator helps knock off the rough edges,” he explained. It gives the trainers a chance to work on student problems and save on maintenance for items a beginning student is likely to damage, like transmissions.
“It saves wear and tear on the equipment,” Stamey added. Employment in the trucking industry is good for the graduates here at Sampson, he said.
“Everyone who graduates has a chance to go to work,” Stamey said. “We have 100 percent placement.” Students may not get the job that they want right away, but if they take the time to pay their dues and work for a year they can go just about anywhere they want to go, he explained. His students learn that there is more to to transport than just driving a truck, like paperwork.
“We have about 150 companies nationwide that will hire students out of the program,” he said. “We’ll do our part if they do their part.”
Classes are offered on a full time and part time basis. Full time classes are eight weeks and will restart March 25, and part time is 15 weekends with new session starting May 5. For more information about the class please contact Fred Stamey at (910) 592-7176 ext. 4002.
Emily M. Hobbs can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 122 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.