Heavy equipment simulator confines mistakes to virtual jobsite

You can now use a computer to put your new heavy equipment operators at the controls of a modern hydraulic excavator working at a virtual construction site.

The Hydraulic Excavator Personal Simulator from Vista Training has twelve simulation lessons of increasing difficulty, starting with the basic operation of the boom and tracks and ending with trenching and truck loading. For each lesson, a series of exercises are presented to the user. Since the same trials are presented to each user, and since each user’s simulated work is evaluated in the same way, it is possible to compare the performance of different operators.

Rick Longstaff, president of Vista Training, said simulation works better than teaching a new employee using the machine itself for a number of reasons.

“It saves fuel and wear on tear on the equipment,” Longstaff said. “The simulator forces logical, step-by-step training rather than just throwing the whole machine at the trainee and overwhelming them. Studies prove those trained on a simulator are better, safer and more productive operators.”

Installation of the simulator takes about 10 minutes on any recent model computer and costs less than $4,000, including joysticks. Professional-level joysticks add about $1,000, but are not necessary, Longstaff said.

In the simulation, each user progresses at his or her own speed through the various lessons. New trainees would begin at the first module, while operators looking to upgrade their skills would start with the advanced modules.

Currently, Vista Training has simulators available for mobile cranes, tower cranes, harvesters and forwarders. Four other machine types are in development for release later this year, Longstaff said.