There may not be snow on the roads because of the mild winter and the arrival of spring, but that’s not stopping MnDot snow plow operators from getting experience behind the wheel.
MnDot has a mobile unit containing two simulators that travels around the state for training.
The unit is in Hutchinson at the HATS Facility this week where drivers have been tuning up their skills.
Simulator Program Manager Andrew Kubista says that they want to give snow plow operators the tools to look at their decision-making process and how they are observing hazards, and what may need to be changed to enhance their skills.
Dashboard controls adjust the virtual mirrors, strobe lights, snowplow blades, salt spreader and ventilation. The steering wheel gives sensory feedback to indicate a rumble strip if the driver strays too far out of a lane or a tire blows. Drivers must maintain an awareness of the vehicle, the road and the environment in front of them at all times.
Kubista says several studies have been done showing that operators who go through the training have half as many accidents as those who have not have been through the simulator training. Futhermore, their accidents are usually less severe.
Kubista says another benefit of the simulator is saving money on the cost of fuel.
After the Hutchinson session is completed, the simulator will be taken to outhwestern Minnesota for more driver training.