If you happened to be strolling around La Villita on Friday, April 5, you might have noticed a one-of-a-kind trailer with people streaming in and out of it parked just across from the Villita Assembly Building. Ensconced in a wrap of historic CPS Energy pictures, this trailer’s interior is just as unique as its exterior.
Step inside, and you’ll find a member of CPS Energy’s Driving Safe team ready to welcome you into one of the two seats that make up this ultra-realistic driving simulator. On the right side sits a larger chair and steering wheel for employees practicing their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) skills, while the left side has a more traditional driving setup for normal vehicles.
The driving simulator has been an integral part of CPS Energy’s driving safety culture for three years now, but it usually operates on the northeast side of town at the utility’s training center off Perrin Beitel Road. For this special occasion, the trailer was hitched up and brought downtown so employees working there could get a peek at all the simulator has to offer.
“We do a lot of training in this simulator,” said Mike Gomez, an Employee Development Analyst who teaches driving safety classes. “We run people through a variety of scenarios, including distracted driving and fatigued driving so that they can see how dangerous those situations are.”
These scenarios and structured trainings help keep the hundreds of drivers in the company safe out on the road. Even if an employee doesn’t regularly drive a company vehicle, they’re encouraged to check out the simulator to help them establish better habits.
“This is all about getting experience,” said Mike. “We want to show off the machine to employees, but we also want them to get a taste of the training so they come and take the full class. The truth is, we get relaxed in our driving habits. Most people here have been driving for years, so we aren’t teaching them how to drive, we are just reminding them of safe habits.”
While all CPS Energy employees who drive company vehicles are required to take a certain number of training hours per year, anyone can sign up to take a class, when their schedule permits.
“It’s easy to drift off and lose your focus while driving because you drive all the time,” said Robert Doege, another member of the Driving Safe team. “We are here to remind people of the things they need to be doing to keep safe, no matter the surroundings. We don’t want them to relax so much.”
After showing off all the simulator’s bells and whistles downtown, the Driving Safe team is looking forward to teaching a new batch of students how to stay safe on the road.
“In the end, we want to teach them safe habits in here so that accidents never happen out there,” said Robert.