By Glenda McCarthy
Many of the students signing up for the Commercial Driver program have never been behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler – let alone know the advanced double-clutching technique used in these big rigs.
Atlantic Diversified Transportation Systems (ADTS) is helping CNA students learn this technique through the design and manufacturing of a simulator for the Commercial Driver program, which is part of the Heavy Equipment Industrial Trades Centre of Excellence at Bay St. George campus.
The simulator gives students an opportunity to practice the coordination of double-clutch shifting before they step into the big trucks. Anyone who has driven a manual transmission vehicle knows you need to push the clutch in while shifting directly to another gear. With double-clutching, the driver needs to first engage the transmission in neutral before shifting to the next gear, while pressing and releasing the clutch with each change.
“In order to practice on a truck it has to be running and moving,” says Commercial Driver instructor, Ray Skinner. “It has to happen during a certain time, at certain speed, and on the road we sometime can’t slow down for a student to learn.”
Commercial Driver instructor, Leo Anderson worked with ADTS before becoming an instructor at CNA, so he had a great relationship with the company. He approached ADTS about the creation of a simulator, and the mechanics in their Clarenville shop came up with a concept and built it for the college.
“We didn’t have any blueprints or anything,” Ray says. “This was totally their idea. They built it from scratch and we picked it up a month later, so I want to give a special thanks to Kev Ketts and Paul Russell for building it.”
He says it is sometimes easier to teach in the simulator because you can go slow and build up coordination.
“Students can now go as slow as they want to simulate a shift in the simulator, in order to get the coordination of their leg and their hand movement to do a shift.”
Once the students have that tricky coordination down, they can build up their speed at the double-clutch.
“You can get faster and faster and then move on to the truck so that by then you already have the coordination developed and you can go ahead and make a shift.”
While students in the Commercial Driver program don’t hit the road their very first day in class, Ray says the simulator goes a long way in helping those not familiar with the technique build their confidence.
“We progress them in a way that we don’t go out on the road the first day. We let them build up their confidence and get over that fear gradually in the field site. There is always a bit of anxiety – it doesn’t matter how much time you spend on the field site with them. Their first trip on the road they are nervous. Their first time with a load aboard they are nervous, so that’s to be expected,” he says.
“In my 13 years here, I have seen lots of cases where we could have used the simulator. It’s not used on every student everyday, but now we can use it for students to get started. We can also use it for Mobile Crane too so it’s there for them to use if they should ever need it for the same purpose.”