Virtual reality meets road safety in heavy vehicle simulator

Heavy vehicle operators will soon drive trucks down the South Eastern Freeway in a new state-of-the-art training simulator designed to improve road safety in South Australia.

The Australian and South Australian governments have partnered with South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA) to buy the HVSim and software package worth $450,000.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the cutting-edge simulator would help existing and learner heavy vehicle drivers navigate the South Eastern Freeway descent, with a focus on improving safety behind the wheel.

“Truck drivers will undergo training and assessments in the simulator and there is scope for expanding the program to cover other high-risk routes in South Australia and across the country,” the Deputy Prime Minister said.

“The Australian Government takes road safety seriously because no family should have to endure the devastation caused road crashes.

“That is why we continue investing in critical initiatives to improve road safety to save lives and reduce road trauma, including across our heavy vehicle sector.”

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s (HVNR) Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative 2020 Grant program allocated $350,000 for the technology.

South Australian Minister for Police, Emergency Services, Correctional Services and Road Safety Vincent Tarzia said the South Australian Government would contribute a further $100,000 for the simulator to ensure heavy vehicle drivers were well prepared.

“The simulator is a safe way for heavy vehicle operators of all experience levels to learn or brush up on their descent skills,” Minister Tarzia said.

“About 660,000 heavy vehicles descend from Crafers to Glen Osmond per annum. In recent years, tragic incidents have occurred at the bottom of the South Eastern Freeway. This technology can help prevent further lives lost on our roads.”

Senator for South Australia Anne Ruston said keeping safety front of mind for road users was key to supporting the National Road Safety Strategy agreed by all governments.

“Every one of us has a vital role to play in promoting road safety, particularly when it comes to our heavy vehicles, with many of the initiatives led by and created for industry groups and communities,” Senator Ruston said.

“This is all part of the Australian Government’s continuing commitment to improve road safety to move towards zero fatalities and serious injuries on our roads.”

NHVR CEO Sal Petroccitto said that the HVSI supported local projects that contribute to improving road safety through innovative, value-for-money ideas.

“Twenty-six recipients from across Australia were supported this year to deliver programs targeting heavy vehicle safety,” Mr Petroccitto said.

“The outcomes from this initiative will contribute to improved safety and sustainability of the road transport industry both in South Australia and across the country.

“The NHVR is proud to partner with the Commonwealth, State jurisdictions and industry associations in delivering these important safety initiatives.”

SARTA President Sharon Middleton AM said this HVSim project will be the first in the country used by the industry for training on specific high-risk routes, including the SE Freeway as well as other problematic routes in SA and interstate.

“The HVSim will enable us to conduct training of Heavy Vehicle (HV) drivers in Defensive Driving, avoiding rollovers on sharp bends, and in improving skills in areas such as reversing trucks with multiple trailers,” Ms Middleton said.

“SARTA will also use the simulator in work with academic institutions to undertake research in critical areas such as fatigue management.

“We welcome the commitment of the Federal and SA Governments to this important and innovative safety project which we could not undertake without their combined $450,000 in grants. The industry has committed a further $100,000 to the project to fund additional simulations and a purpose-built trailer to enable us to take make the HVSim available to drivers and operators around the state and interstate.

“SARTA and our industry have always been committed to safety, for all road users as well as our HV drivers and this exciting project will play a key role in advancing that objective.”

In a further preventative measure, the simulator has potential to assist research into driver behaviours. The Centre for Automotive Safety Research (CASR) and the will have access to the simulator to conduct testing on proposed road designs.

In May 2019, the Marshall Liberal Government bolstered road safety by delivering tougher penalties for irresponsible truck and bus drivers caught descending unsafely on the South Eastern Freeway.

This followed a Coronial Inquest into two crashes in 2010 and 2014 involving out-of-control heavy vehicles that tragically resulted in lives lost and serious injuries.

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