Officers from the Major Crash Investigation Section had a crash course themselves this week on the driving and safe operation of a road train.
Sergeant Mark Casey said he jumped at the chance to give members of his team time on a $300,000 road train simulator while the technology was in Darwin.
“Unfortunately our Members have had to attend several incidents where road trains have been involved and this opportunity has given us an appreciation of the conditions and perspective a road train driver encounters on the job.
“Any information we can get is a benefit to what we have to do and this simulator was a perfect, safe and practical way to understand the mechanics of the long haul vehicle.”
The simulator is owned by the Kalari Transport Company and is used to train their drivers how to respond to a wide variety of conditions and hazards they will experience on the roads.
The simulator has three large screens and the console represents the controls you would find in any heavy transport cab.
The situations include heavy traffic, country roads, hills and conditions like rain, fog and wind.
Trainee and experienced drivers alike will learn to cope with other vehicles, tyre blowouts, animals, mechanical failure, driving at night and even tourists on the wrong side of the road.
Driver Trainer Trevor Dennert is a 35 year veteran in the road transport industry and believes the simulator does not just train drivers.
“We have had all sorts of people have a go on this device from school children to my next door neighbour.
“I am a firm believer in road education and the more people understand the limitations and power of a heavy transport vehicle the better.”
Trevor says by giving people the understanding it increases the awareness and by extension, the respect of the road train.
“We explain through simulation everything from braking distance to the air displacement caused by a passing truck. The children who have had a go in the past weeks now understand that the initial blast of air they experience when the truck passes them is followed by a suction effect as the trailers pass. The kids all said they will take a step back now when one passes.
“To me that is what it is all about. If we can save one person being injured on the roads then the investment in this simulator has paid for itself.”
With road train activity set to explode in and around Darwin in the coming months Trevor says education is the key to preventing road trauma involving heavy vehicles. A sentiment echoed by Sergeant Mark Casey and all Emergency Services who have to attend road crashes.
“The braking distance of a loaded road train is about 70 metres if the vehicle is travelling at 60 kilometres per hour. That distance increases to 170 metres when the speed is 90 Kph.
“Other drivers using the roads where these trucks are operating need to know and understand that sort of statistic if we are to prevent a major crash involving one of these vehicles.
“The power of these trucks is quite impressive but they need time and space to operate safely. It would be wonderful if all the drivers in the NT could have a go just to understand what it takes to turn one let alone stop one.”
Sergeant Casey said the Major Crash Investigation Section routinely participates in a range of work related experiences and is currently looking for Police Members interested in this line of work to consider applying for positions within the unit.