Technology used to train much needed HGV learner drivers

Tuesday 1st March 2022 6:00 am
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Learning to drive an HGV can be fraught with challenges. Alongside the pressure of busy roads is the precision and skill it takes to manoeuvre a large and heavy vehicle – often in challenging circumstances, such as down narrow streets or during difficult weather conditions.

In the UK, obtaining an HGV licence can take on average between six to eight weeks of training. To be eligible for an HGV licence, candidates need to be 18 years or older, hold The Driver CPC (Certificate of Professional Competence) and pass a theory and practical examination.

The increased use of internet deliveries is contributing to a rise in the number of vans and HGVs using roads. According to RAC Foundation, it is estimated that by 2050 vans will make up 16% of all traffic while HGV traffic is expected to increase by 12%. However, the dwindling number of experienced HGV drivers in the UK is causing major concern across the country. Without a sufficient level of qualified drivers, supplies could be severely affected and the prices of many goods could climb steeply.

Tackling this shortage is essential to maintaining supply chains, meeting customer demands and sustaining economic momentum.

While training new drivers can be time consuming, having a pool of fully qualified drivers is crucial to helping solve the issue. As experienced drivers retire or move to alternative careers, new drivers are required to take their place. So how should companies be encouraging individuals to gain their HGV qualifications?

Emily Hardy, a road safety expert at Brigade Electronics UK, said: “Trying to attract new talent is a difficult process. Offering higher wages and more appealing packages are short term measures that have already been implemented by many companies. However, safety and the right level of driver support are also crucial factors in not only appealing to candidates, but ensuring they want to continue with a long-term career in the industry.”

Fitting safety devices and vehicle CCTV to HGVs is helping to meet many of the challenges faced by drivers and operators alike, including learners and those new to driving HGVs.

As the number of safety initiatives for large vehicles increases, technology is proving to be an invaluable resource in aiding drivers, particularly in relation to visibility and eliminating complex blind spots.

Emily continues: “Whether fitted as part of road regulations or to enhance fleet safety, it is essential that learner drivers are taught how to use these systems as more and more fleets adopt this technology.

“Road safety research has shown that in the time it takes to scan four mirrors, assess and then react to hazards, a vehicle could travel as far as 10 metres. Cameras, such as Brigade’s Backeye®360, which offer 360-degree visibility via a single in-cab monitor, allow the driver to see everything in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle, including pedestrians and cyclists, that might be in a blind spot position.”

The size of modern commercial vehicles means they are potentially highly dangerous machines, often driving on narrow streets packed with parked cars where there is limited room to manoeuvre. The risk of accidents is even greater at night or in wintry weather conditions when cameras may struggle to provide a clear picture.

Ultrasonic obstacle detection systems alert the driver to the presence of obstacles close to the vehicle, whether moving or stationary. An audible and/or visual in-cab warning is triggered, while external speaking alarms can be added to warn cyclists and pedestrians in the vicinity.

Brigade Electronics’ next generation of collision avoidance systems was developed using artificial intelligence technology and supported by the Knowledge Transfer Partnership initiative with Cambridge University. The result - Sidescan®Predict – was extensively trialled in 2020 with impressive results.

Through the use of AI, the Sidescan®Predict sensor constantly gathers object detection data such as the speed and distance of a nearby cyclist or pedestrian. This data feeds into an algorithm created by Brigade to accurately gauge the risk of collision. When danger is detected, the driver is instantly alerted in time to take avoiding action.

Sidescan®Predict is always switched on, including at speeds below 30km/h. And crucially, the collision protection is active with or without the indicators on. This is particularly important as it is recognised that some drivers become irritated by false alerts, even avoiding use of indicators so their system does not trigger alerts, potentially putting vulnerable road users at risk.

Reversing alarms are another key safety system, with modern iterations, such as Brigade Electronics’ award-winning White Sound range, offering instantly locatable alarms that cause less noise pollution because they are only heard in the danger zone.

Safety upgrades such as these can all be retro-fitted to a vehicle in a matter of hours. The improvement they can make to road safety is incalculable and the peace of mind they offer drivers invaluable.

Dash cams and vehicle CCTV offer an additional layer of security and support fleet operators with managing drivers travelling long distances for extensive periods.

Emily added: “Commercial vehicle safety technology provides operators and drivers with the confidence that they are doing everything feasibly possible to keep themselves and other road users out of harm’s way.”

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