The California Department of Transportation discusses its contractor review process and subsequent training simulator program.

In June 1997, the California Department of Transportation (CALTRANS) began the search for mobile truck driving simulators to enhance the training provided by the Maintenance Equipment Training Academy (META). This interest was sparked by a demonstration of a FAAC INCORPORATED truck simulator operated by North American Van Lines (NAVL) inside their 48- foot custom trailer. The mobile simulator, built by FAAC Incorporated, has been successfully training drivers since 1992. It was at the recommendation of John McFann, lead instructor for NAVL, that CALTRANS contacted FAAC.

Jim Edson, META Superintendent for CALTRANS, was tasked with researching the simulation industry and conducted a thorough review of FAAC, its customers, and its competitors. This effort quickly revealed that FAAC was a pioneer and leader in the simulation industry and that FAAC had developed the industry’s first full-mission, Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) based truck simulator. NAVL and other FAAC customers revealed a common sentiment – FAAC is a company with high integrity and a long-standing reputation for excellent customer relations and service.

Rick Snyder, Director of Vehicle Simulation at FAAC, was contacted by Mr. Edson in the autumn of 1997 and asked to respond to a list of requirements that had been assembled by CALTRANS. FAAC’s responses were complete with frequent insightful observations and helpful suggestions. Mr. Snyder was later invited to California in March 1998 to address CALTRANS administrators directly. This exchange of information was unconstrained and was not limited to existing product utilization. Rather, it was a refreshing sharing of training needs, potential solutions, and the most cost-effective means of achieving them. Unlike previous CALTRANS experiences with other companies, it was clear that Mr. Snyder put a high priority on conquering training challenges and that he took them to heart. This meeting was the pivotal event that led to the selection of FAAC to build the CALTRANS mobile training system.

During performance of FAAC’s contract with CALTRANS, Mr. Edson worked closely with FAAC. Mr. Snyder and his staff were accommodating at every turn and frequently went well beyond requirements of the contract. The desire to conquer training challenges remained strong after contract award. This work ethic was apparent in each software or hardware engineer. Following delivery in June 1999, FAAC continues to exceed expectations with timely support and service. Whether it’s via phone, modem, in state service personnel, or dispatched staff from Michigan, FAAC has been there when needed and continues to go the extra mile.

Utilization of the CALTRANS Mobile Equipment Training Simulators (CMETS) has established CALTRANS as a premiere training organization among DOTs. Domestic and international agencies frequently inquire about its benefits and Mr. Edson is happy to report that his drivers are now much better trained. He anticipates an overall reduction in accidents and repairs such as burned up clutches and blown transmissions that are directly related to equipment abuse.

According to Mr. Edson, “FAAC is committed to excellence and continually strives to exceed customer expectations." Acknowledging this and the success that CALTRANS hasdate, CALTRANS plans to purchase additional simulators for training academy use.