EDMONTON, Alta. – One of the newest and largest training facilities for Canada’s trucking industry features a few tools that none of the others have. Edmonton’s five-acre test track and truck simulator are rare enough, but they also happen to share space with simulators for training on a 737 or helicopter.
It all comes together in the Alberta Aerospace and Technology Centre, which supports road, rail, and air applications.
The Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) has waited for years to improve the province’s training facilities. This spring it came to life at the Edmonton International Airport.
There is nothing quite like it in Western Canada. As Chris Nash, president of the AMTA, explained, “It’s anything and everything. One of our goals is that we want training to be consistent.”
That desire for consistency means the track can be utilized for training that stems from various stakeholders, led by the AMTA, an individual Alberta carrier, or involve training that is developed on-site and employed at another location.
Several carriers, particularly larger fleets, provide their own tailored training to new company drivers. Part of the idea behind the new test track is to help such in-house training programs become more uniform. That means experienced, quality drivers wouldn’t have to start at Ground Zero each time they move from one carrier to another.
In addition to driver training, the track will also provide the opportunity to conduct research and help create the framework for industry-recognized instruction, such as mandatory entry-level training or post-licence development.
The idea behind developing the track and 20,000-sq.-ft. building dates back several years, with construction announced in early 2017.
At the time, then-AMTA president Lorraine Card said the association was drawn to the Edmonton airport location because of the opportunity to be part of what she called the aerotropolis concept, and the belief it would lure people to the location for training purposes.
“The training facility, with the addition of a test track, puts the AMTA in a position to offer world class training,” Card said when the project was announced. “It allows our members to utilize all our training resources, and we think this will be a value-added benefit for AMTA members.”
The track also offers a safe, controlled location for drivers to practice the skills they require before heading out on public highways where other motorists are at risk.
“Being able to bring that to the forefront and educate in a controlled environment, or to build training for people to be safer and competent on the road, that’s was this facility is all about,” said Nash.
Given its current size and how it is constructed, training on the test track is limited to slow maneuvers, such as backing up, parking, managing tight spaces, and hooking up a trailer. Combined with other resources at the site, it could help those looking to train on autonomous or connected vehicles, or learn ways to reduce greenhouse gases.
With the advent of new technologies, many new or experienced drivers struggling to get a handle on how these devices are best used. The track offers a place to bring them up to speed.
And there are already plans to expand the facility in the future.
The second of a potential four phases would see the track’s footprint increased by 13 acres, critical to enable higher-speed training and facility technology testing that requires more space, speed, and continuity. A larger track would also support tests of things like emergency vehicles and smart city technologies. Adding a stop light, railway track, and even an off-road component would cater to those who work in the oilfield and use lease roads.
So far, the AMTA has first right of refusal on the 13 acres, and if funding was already available that number would jump to 39 acres.
The association’s continued fundraising efforts will determine if and when these next steps become a reality.
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