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UPS uses virtual simulator to train Chicago area drivers

UPS uses virtual simulator to train Chicago area drivers
UPS uses virtual simulator to train Chicago area drivers 02:26

FRANKLIN PARK (CBS) -- Jaywalking pedestrians, distracted drivers, double-parked cars -- navigating city streets can be a challenge for anyone behind the wheel but things get especially tricky for people making deliveries in big trucks.

Morning Insider Lauren Victory takes us inside driver training at one company focused on hazards and high tech.

Multiple packages in tow, UPS driver Sergio Garcia let CBS 2 tag along for a delivery. Well, sort of. His truck he hopped into was actually a simulator that cooks up scenarios drivers might encounter when out on the road. It sits parked inside a UPS training facility in Franklin Park. Garcia was one of the first trainees to use the technology.

"It's like driving without actually being out there on the road so it taught me what to look out for," Garcia said.

Manager Julio Robles tells us gamifying training helps with recruitment.

"The new generation of candidates that we're seeing out there, they learn a different way. They want to be able to feel and see things before they're actually out on the road," he said, showing CBS2 examples of the truck "driving" past construction crews and pedestrians.

The simulator also puts the person behind the wheel in a crowded parking lot or a tight street. Lessons include how to slow a heavy truck full of packages and the importance of a safe following distance. UPS also offers virtual reality headsets to practice dropping off boxes as another modernized, hands-on drill.

"I trained drivers not coming from here and you can see the difference not only in their confidence level but even their skill set," said trainer Roxy Diaz who has spent 21 years alongside rookies, helping them learning how to the navigate the big brown trucks. "The simulator prepares that student for what to expect," she added.

CBS 2 asked how much using virtual training has cut down on accidents.

"We don't really have a measuring tool at this point because this is so new," said Robles. "But I can tell you that definitely by giving the candidates an experience to identify the hazards on the road, it's gonna cut down on crashes and safety infractions overall."

Consider Garcia after a week of virtual practice. Despite never navigating anything as hefty as a UPS vehicle, he's had zero problems in his now-three months of making deliveries.

"It really helped me a lot because it really showed me what to look for and it was like a real-world experience," he said.

Simulation trucks are used at multiple UPS training centers across America.

About 45 drivers have gotten to practice behind the virtual wheel in Illinois so far. 

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