Truck Driving Simulators in CDL Schools

by Pride Transport | Apr 18, 2024

Driving simulations have been around for a long time in the form of computer and video games, but today’s truck simulators are far more advanced than the games we grew up with. Truck driving simulators are now fully equipped to create a truly immersive experience for truck driver training.


These technological training tools help new and experienced drivers learn new maneuvers, sharpen their decision making and emergency response processes, and practice other critical driving skills. Keep reading to learn how simulators work, the pros and cons of simulator training, and why CDL schools are incorporating simulators into their lessons.


How Do Truck Simulators Work?

Most high-tech truck simulators use real truck parts to recreate the feeling of operating a real commercial motor vehicle. Simulator set-ups mimic the interior of a truck cab with seatbelts, pedals, and adjustable steering column. Drivers can also control flashers and hand brakes for a full simulation experience.


The visual simulation is just as important as the hands-on components. To give the full effect of driving on the road, simulators typically feature three high-definition screens to show 180 degrees forward-facing view. High-resolution views help drivers practice gauging speeds and distance, and normal, wide angle, and front mirror insets appear on the screen to offer an accurate viewing simulation. These angles are ideal for practicing backing and other maneuvers.


Some of the other truck-specific features include:

  • Touch displays on the dashboard that can change to create different control panel configurations
  • Realistic steering wheel behavior based on driver actions during various maneuvers
  • Clutch, gas, and brake pedals react based on vehicle measurements and driver actions
  • Realistic transmission systems, including options for both manual and automatic


Truck simulators offer instructors and students flexibility to train for a full range of scenarios that they couldn’t realistically recreate whenever they want. Different simulator systems can create resistance for drivers to practice driving against the wind or uphill, or mimic different weather conditions to test drivers on handling bad road conditions. Some systems are even able to simulate common mechanical failures, like blown tires, fuel leaks, or stalled engines so drivers can learn and practice the appropriate protocols.

pride transport employee driving truck

Truck Driving Simulator Pros and Cons

For as long as most of us can remember, learning to drive involved sitting behind the wheel of a real vehicle and taking instruction from someone seated next to you, so using a truck simulator as part of CDL training seems a little strange at first. But technological advancements have made truck driving simulators valuable training tools for today’s CDL instructors. Consider some of these benefits of simulator training:

Training in different weather conditions

OTR drivers experience almost every type of weather at some point in their career, and even regional drivers can run into weather-related challenges during seasonal shifts. There’s no way to guarantee that new drivers will get adequate practice operating their vehicles in adverse conditions, but with simulators, instructors can recreate driving in snow, heavy rain, and extreme winds using different settings.

Practice on different terrains and skills levels

Long uphills, increased traffic, pedestrians, cyclists…truck drivers can’t always predict what they’ll encounter on their routes. Simulator training exposes drivers to different challenges in a controlled setting so they can safely learn to handle difficult terrain and potential hazards.

Familiarize drivers with new technologies

Today’s truck cabs feature a lot of technology that most new drivers won’t be familiar with, and that could create a challenge for less tech-savvy trainees. Truck simulators let students learn to use and read different gauges and tools without the added pressure of driving on the road in the early stages of learning.

Maximize training and practice time

New drivers have to master a lot of different skills in order to earn their CDL, and that requires several hours of practice. Regular practice and repetition help to provide more consistent training and improve driver retention. Simulators give drivers more time to test their skills and iron out any maneuvers that challenge them so that they can maximize their driving time.


Truck simulators offer several advantages, but there are shortcomings to consider, too. Some of the downsides to simulator training include the following:

Creates a false sense of security

Even with realistic settings and driving conditions, simulators just aren’t the same as actually driving on the road with other vehicles. Instructors and drivers can’t rely exclusively on simulated situations because they can’t create the same inherent sense of urgency that comes with real, in-the-moment situations. Simulator training could cause drivers to become over confident in tricky and even dangerous circumstances.

Expensive equipment

Semi trucks aren’t inexpensive (they can run anywhere from $70,000 to over $200,000 for the most state-of-the-art models), but with regular maintenance, you’ll get years of service out of the truck. While you could argue that the money saved in the long run is worth the investment, the initial cost for simulator systems can be significant, especially considering that you need to spend money on trucks that can actually transport loads, too.


Plus, there’s the matter of maintenance, software updates, troubleshooting, and any additional fees outside of initial system set-up. What kind of customer support can you expect if the system malfunctions? Is fixing the simulator something you can do, or will the company you purchased from have to send a technician? You might not run into problems often, but you need to plan for the possibility.

Why CDL Schools Use Truck Driving Simulators

Truck driving schools have to train drivers to safely operate a CMV. This alone can be challenging, but when you add in that drivers enter the program with different levels of driving experience and comfort operating a large vehicle, instructors have to think about which training methods will allow them to teach every student in the most cost-effective and safe way.


Truck simulators help driving schools save money by protecting their trucks from damage, normal wear-and-tear, and fuel usage in practice runs and training drives. Students can spend more time training on the simulator so that they can make the most of their time in the truck.


Another significant reason for using simulators in driving schools is that they provide more standardized testing and performance evaluations. Because the simulators are computer-based, they can evaluate, record, and save driver performance for instructors to review with individual students. This allows students to see exactly what they need to improve so they can focus their efforts on the right skills.


There are several programs in and around Utah where CDL students can train on simulators. All of the following programs can be found on the FMCSA Training Provider Registry:


Truck driving simulators won’t replace hands-on, in-cab instruction and practice. But when used in combination with traditional training practices, truck simulators are a great way to teach truck driving principles in a safe, efficient, and cost-effective manner.

Drivers at Pride Transport get the ongoing training they need to stay on top of their game. Learn more about driving with Pride or apply for one of our driver jobs today!

pride transport employee standing in front of semitruck

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