How Truck Driving Simulators Redefine the Landscape of CDL Training

Oct 12, 2023

View CVTA’s Webinar “Not Your Father’s Simulator” above and download the webinar slides here.

The following post was created in partnership with Career Now Brands.

How Truck Driving Simulators Redefine the Landscape of CDL Training

To be considered competitive industry leaders, companies are encouraged to stay up-to-date with the latest technology, social media, and contemporary practices. The same stands for certain training programs – namely professional truck driver


How can our industry maintain its relevance when appealing to the next generation of truck drivers? And what does the future hold for professional truck driver training in general?

Simulated truck driver training has been emerging on the market for a while now – and with many benefits. Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) simulators offer a low-risk environment for prospective drivers to learn and refine their skills before getting behind the wheel of an actual CMV.

Some remain unaware of just how much simulated training can advance practices in the industry for carriers and training programs alike. Let’s explore trucking simulators further to grasp the full scope of their potential.

How Realistic are Truck Driving Simulators?

Truck driving simulators are far more advanced than a simple clutch pedal with a few attached monitor screens. Today’s trucking simulators are highly-developed and backed by years of research, leading technology, and hyper-realistic features.

Truck driving simulators present students with a deeply immersive experience. They usually have three screens surrounding the driver’s seat, one replicating an engaging front-facing view, along with one on the left, and another to the right. Many simulators use the same equipment found in actual trucks: including an adjustable steering column, pedals with accurate resistance, a simulated transmission functioning as accurately as a truck’s does, and even vibration systems that mimic those felt on the road in cabs.

In addition, operator stations offer a variety of weather conditions for instructors to choose from. Some provide realistic wind resistance, along with standard inclement weather conditions that are featured on screen.

Many simulators can also replicate certain mechanical defects that truck drivers commonly face throughout their career. These include but are not limited to: blown tires, engine checks, fuel and air leaks, stalled engines, and brake system faults.

Trucking simulators also offer opportunities for different sectors within the logistics industry – offering beneficial training opportunities for essential community services. For instance, many simulators also have programs geared toward school bus driver training, waste management services, or even city buses.

Over time, the extent and replication of this immersive realism has actually been proven to teach students quicker than traditional driver training.

What are the Benefits of Simulated Truck Driver Training?

The authentic nature of these simulations is just one of the many features making them so useful to schools. However, there are other positive aspects that have caught the attention of some industry professionals, as well.

These benefits include, but are not limited to:

  • Decreased risk while learning
  • Lowering overhead costs for schools (including insurance)
  • Maximizing time
  • Bridging language barriers
  • Performance evaluation capabilities

Decreased Risk while Driving

In one way or another, many students will struggle with training in a CMV for the first time. It’s not to claim that simulators can completely replace hands-on training in a cab – more so that simulated truck driver training can be used as a tool to better prepare students for driving a truck when they are ready to get behind the wheel.

Simulators lower the overall risk when it comes to students, instructors, and the equipment. Learning on a simulator gives prospective drivers the opportunity to get familiar with the interior of a truck, its clutch, any necessary gear shifts, and various maneuvers (merging, stopping, straight line backing, alley dock backing, etc.).

Lowered Overhead Costs for Schools – High ROI

It’s no secret that purchasing trucks can be expensive – especially for smaller, private truck driver training schools. Truck driving simulators can be a cost-effective solution for schools who may not have access to enough trucks – all while saving time and money.

There are other ways simulators are expected to be financially beneficial in the world of professional truck driver training. Simulators may reduce the amount of instructors that are needed when it comes to training.

Most simulators assess students by scoring on particular strengths and weaknesses. These scoring systems can translate to less evaluation time needed for instructors, who are then able to address any shortcomings as needed without the risk of doing so on the road.

The immersive training experience translates to less heavy lifting for instructors, and even lowered insurance rates resulting from fewer accidents occurring.

Maximizing Time

Trucking simulators present an advantageous way to save money, while being able to quickly train a higher volume of students. Following recent years of simulator development, it has been proven that students learn quicker using simulators than they do practicing in an actual cab.

It helps that simulators have the same interior features as standard models, lessons that can be taken and retaken, and realistic features mimicking the sensations of driving an actual truck.

Students also have the advantage of experiencing various simulated weather conditions when undergoing training. Conditions can include heavy rain, high wind, snow/whiteouts, and more. These settings also benefit students who have only undergone professional truck driver training in favorable weather conditions. When these drivers encounter bad weather for the “first time”, they will be starting from sufficient experience, not from scratch.

Bridging Language Barriers

Standard U.S. truck driving training also poses some challenges to students whose first language is not English. While there are some programs offering professional truck driver training in other languages, these can be few and far between.

Although some simulators do offer instructions in different languages, learning through repetition is one of the more beneficial aspects of them. Designed repetition not only aids those who speak a foreign language, but it has also been shown to improve the learning skills of students who do not thrive in traditional classroom settings.

Performance Evaluation Capabilities

To learn, students need to understand their performance – including strengths and weaknesses. Most of today’s simulators are equipped with the capabilities to evaluate driver performance and success. Performance is measured while practicing different maneuvers, and in varying driving scenarios.

Progress can be recorded, saved, and evaluated later by driving instructors. These features allow driving instructors to maximize their time, assess student proficiency, and to guide students based on their specific needs.

Again, these are just a few of the many unexpected benefits that come along with truck driving simulators. By replicating the nuances and challenges of operating a CMV, simulators allow students to perfect their driving skills – before setting foot on the gas.

In an industry where hands-on training can render inherent risks, truck driving simulators stand out as a safe and effective alternative.

From Console to Cab: Learning in a Controlled Space

Throughout the most recent years of their development, studies have proven that truck driving simulators could significantly benefit professional truck driver training students. Their features extend far beyond a replicated truck driving experience to fulfill an industry-specific need.

While some may feel more comfortable with traditional driver training, many believe that truck driving simulators are the future of CDL training. Whether your mind aligns with simulated training, is still skeptical, or you fall somewhere in between, one detail cannot be overlooked. And that is that simulators have left a lasting impact on the trucking industry.