RAIL GROUP ON AIR podcast – Part 243 Virtual Training with the FRA & Heartwood

Locomotive engineers have been qualified and trained with simulation technology for years. Through technology, the opportunity to leverage simulation beyond locomotive engineers is quickly emerging. Heartwood led the charge by developing virtual simulations to certify Transportation and Mechanical employees in conducting 49 CFR Part 243 tasks at Norfolk Southern (and subsequently BNSF, Union Pacific, CSX, Amtrak, CN and KCS) and obtained a Federal Railroad Administration simulation training waiver to meet the regulatory requirements. With simulation technology, regulatory and maintenance training can be at employee fingertips.

Can railroads train, qualify and improve their workforce with simulation tools?

Hear FRA Staff Director, Railroad Safety Partnerships Rob Castiglione, Heartwood Co-Founder and Chief Revenue Officer Neil Wadhawan and Training & Sim Evangelist Brian Keller discuss this emerging technology with Railway Age Editor-in-Chief William C. Vantuono below:

Here are some highlights from the speakers.

Rob Castiglione:
“There is a tremendous opportunity as this simulation technology continues to evolve.
I was onboard with this technology since 2012. It was a win-win for everyone involved and is embraced by the target audience. This stuff sells itself, to be honest by how much clarity and detail put into it. There are some learning curves, as with everything new.
I am excited about it, there is no doubt about that. It has huge upsides, you can go through the steps, with less risks, and see what you cant ordinarily see or stage, which makes for a nice platform to engage workers and learning transfer happens naturally. This is true for both green or brand new employees and refresher training, not just for FRA but internal requirements as well.

The detail associated with the components and the interactions you can participate in – great pains have been made to make it as realistic as possible – and it shows!”

Brian Keller:
“Training groups typically operate daylight monday to friday – but the availability of having this software 24/7 is a game changer. This material is available round the clock and its accurate. If I need a certain kind of control valve or brake system, it can be replicated in the app. I don’t always have that, when I am field or training officer to demonstrate and show an individual that. Also I haven’t had the ability to consistently have every person work through skills and measure/record that. With simulation, we won’t be waiting on equipment to train on it. Anything new or rare can be trained before it ever shows up. I can bring in equipment into a facility via simulation that they wouldn’t get to practice on. It evaluates the person and gives immediate consistent feedback. The app observes what WE DID not what the instructor observing us THOUGHT we did.

A good example is a conductor that works road service for 2-3 months straight and all the brake tests have been done for him by the mechanical dept. Now he is switched to a yard or local assignment and he personally hasn’t done a Class 1 brake test in the last 90 days. The opportunity to refresh hasn’t existed beyond conversation or printed documents earlier, so now before he puts himself at risk walking along the track, he has reviewed what he needs to look at, what’s a defect and what’s not – in an interactive experience.

These are major wins that the simulation and virtual training application gives us that we didn’t get by going out to the physical equipment. It provides a risk free injury free environment to practice that skill while augmenting the time spent on the physical equipment, which is also essential.”

Neil Wadhawan:
“We are designing these training apps easy to use just like the apps your employees would use otherwise. You can have an instructor in the classrooms, but now you can also have an instructor at the tip of your hands! They can practice without penalty, in a safer environment translating to less errors finally in the field. It is refreshing to see almost all class 1 railroads getting behind this!”

Thanks for listening!

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