Top Trucking Company Takes Longer Route to the Roadby Jana Ritter - Published: 3/28/2013
Big rigs can be 80,000-pound missiles if the people operating them don't know what they're doing and Prime Inc., one of the largest trucking companies in the country, says it's safety-first when it comes to their drivers.
With their simulated training that starts in a classroom, Prime Inc. takes the long road to getting drivers on the road. Even those who have driven for other companies take computer tests and what Prime calls the most realistic test available to ensure they're road ready – simulator semi-trucks. Some would describe it like being in an arcade for adults, only a much more serious object of getting through this course without killing anybody.
Although Josh Bishop has six years of driving experience with other carrier companies, he sat behind the wheel of a giant simulator on Wednesday afternoon and he has to master this virtual road before the company will put him on the real road. Already aware just how dangerous the real road can be, Bishop is willing to undergo Prime's more extensive training process. "A lady side-swiped me about a year ago," Bishop said. Even though he wasn't at fault, he felt bad about the collision and the experience has stayed with him ever since.
Prime Inc. Instructor, Wally Anthony's job is to teach drivers how to avoid those situations whenever possible. "All of our drivers have to go through the simulators before they go out on a truck, and the simulators are really neat because I can sit there and watch a gentleman drive and tell he's hitting his gears, checking his mirrors, keeping it in the lanes, the correct speed, that they're looking down the road, and thinking ahead”, Anthony said. “Because time is not on their side,” he adds.
Stopping a semi truck is no easy task. A truck traveling 60 miles an hour will take the length of two football fields to gradually come to a complete stop. Then once a driver does stop, he has another distance to consider. "Ten foot ahead, so when you're stopped at a stoplight you want at least ten feet between you and the vehicle in front of you," Anthony explains.
Anthony also reveals another reason for Prime's more rigorous training, is weeding out drivers that don't measure up to the company's standards and avoiding potential problems down the road. Drivers must demonstrate the behind the wheel awareness that the company seeks and Anthony says that out of 40 students, three of them don't make it through the program.
Drivers who haven't driven before have to spend at least 75 hours in the actual truck with a trainer. Sometimes they drive for as many as 150 supervised hours, and that's after the simulator and all the classroom work. Veteran drivers with Prime do a review on the simulator every year. If one gets into what Prime defines as a preventable accident on the real road, he or she meets with the company's safety board to determine if more training is needed.