Virtual experience puts you in truck driver's seat

The trucking industry is targeting young drivers with a new digital road safety campaign.

An innovative new digital experience launched by the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) aims to educate young drivers about sharing the road with heavy vehicles.  

According to the ATA, young people aged 16 to 25 are the most over-represented group of drivers involved in crashes on our roads. 

In response, the peak trucking industry body has come up with SafeT360, an immersive digital experience that puts young drivers in the virtual driver’s seat of a truck. 

ATA’s Safety, Health and Wellbeing Director Melissa Weller said SafeT360 was designed to be experienced virtually and via an interactive custom-built road safety exhibition.

It uses virtual reality and interactive messaging, packed into a real travelling truck and trailer.

“The key message that Safety360 is putting across is really about how can you keep yourself safe on the road, while also reminding people that truck drivers are professional people,” Ms Weller said.

“They want to go to work, do their job and get home safely.

“They certainly don’t want to hurt anyone else in the day-to-day role that they play.” 

“The truck itself, the physical exhibition is the rock star of the program, and it will tour nationally to reach as many young people as possible.

“So, high schools, TAFEs, universities, careers expos, all those venues where we can directly interact with that target audience.” 

The need for such a program that educates young drivers on the dangers of sharing the road with trucks was evident in a University of Newcastle study commissioned by the ATA. 

The study found in Australia in 2019, 188 people died from 173 crashes involving heavy trucks. 

The trucking industry is trying to education young drivers about road safety.

Collisions involving trucks were also 2.6 times more likely to result in fatalities and passenger vehicle occupants were 10 times more likely than truck occupants to suffer serious or fatal injuries.

The study found worldwide, road trauma was the leading cause of death among young people aged under 29 years, including in Australia, and the highest crash risk period for a young person was immediately after obtaining a provisional driver licence, where the driver was unsupervised. 

Scania Australia PR Manager Alexander Corne said drivers of light vehicles often did not appreciate the traffic challenges faced by heavy-truck drivers, especially in built-up areas.

“Heavy trucks are slower to accelerate from standstill and require longer braking zones,” Mr Corne said. 

“When the truck driver hits the brakes, the truck will take far longer to stop than a passenger car.

“Truck drivers are taught to leave a sizeable gap to the vehicle in front, the ‘survival gap’, especially on roads with higher speeds. 

“This gap isn’t there as an invitation for car drivers to make a last-minute lane change.

“The best way to appreciate the skill and safety-focus truck drivers have is to spend a day in a cab. 

“Not only will you undoubtedly see far more bad driving from that lofty perch, but you’ll understand how much work and effort goes into keeping the truck on the road, in the right lane and matching the speed of the traffic surrounding it.”

The ATA believes visitors to the SafeT360 exhibition and its virtual equivalent would better understand where a truck’s blind spots were, how long it took to stop, the dangers of distraction and other tips to keep drivers safe around trucks.

“SafeT360 was based on evidence that we managed to gather from peer-reviewed research and we also looked at our own focus group results,” Ms Weller said.

“We ran focus groups with urban and rural young people in various stages of their driving career and we gained an insight into what was their knowledge, where were the gaps, and also what was their attitude towards trucks.

Road safety logo

“Unsurprisingly, trucks cause anxiety on the road.

“We looked at the results and how to communicate effectively with 16-25s. 

“We decided on that target group because they are over-represented in crash statistics across the country and internationally and they are also over-represented in multi-vehicle crashes that involve a heavy vehicle. 

“The other benefit of targeting 16 to 25s also is that you’re bringing along a whole new generation of drivers with a better knowledge of heavy vehicles and how to keep themselves safe around heavy vehicles on the road, with a better understanding of even the basic physics of trucks.”

Ms Weller said about 4500 people had experienced the exhibition, but it was about a year behind schedule.

“We launched just before COVID came into play, so we essentially had to take the truck off the road for a whole year in 2020,” she said.

“We continue to also have a very strong communications campaign, mostly through social media tools that reach that type of audience.”

A student tries the new virtual reality truck driving experience.

Safety360 will also soon be available online with registered users sent cardboard VR (virtual reality) goggles to experience the content.
  
The ATA is also planning to follow up on the SafeT360 program to see how effective it is in changing driver behaviour in conjunction with the University of Newcastle. 

“It’s unique in that often organisations put all the findings into the campaigns themselves, but rarely have the opportunity to formally evaluate (performance),” Ms Weller said.

“We really want to leave a legacy by formally evaluating that and leaving that information for others who might be developing road safety campaigns of this type.”

Subject to COVID-19 restrictions, the Safety360 will be in Queensland in October, thanks to the support of Transport and Main Roads and the Queensland Trucking Association.

If your organisation is interested in having the Safety360 truck visit or for more information on the out-of-home kits, visit the ATA website or email safet360@truck.net.au.

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