Richard Lengrand
Directeur général d'Egis Exploitation Aquitaine
Published on January 21, 2021

Reading time : 4 min

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How Virtual Reality secures the dangerous training of the patrollers

The job of patroller is extremely dangerous. They put their life at risk to safe people’s life. In France, an average of 10 patroller vehicles are hit per month while the patrollers are securing an event, leading to 16 injured patrollers and one death. And, training in this environment is even more dangerous. On-site training is also very time-consuming and expensive; and the ability to replicate many different event types and conditions is severely limited.

The initial training

Four weeks ago, Oliver joined Egis Exploitation Aquitaine as patroller, a new position for him. On behalf of the Concessionaire Atlandes, Egis Exploitation Aquitaine is in charge of the traffic management, maintenance and toll collection of 104 km of the A63 motorway between Bordeaux and Spain.

Oliver is about to complete his training. He now knows everything about health and safety, traffic management, vehicles maintenance, the network. During his 4 weeks training, Oliver went through theoretical training, then a training using models, a training using real vehicles on parking, and finally real patrols in companionship with experienced patrollers. His learning curve was checked every week thanks to quizzes he completed. This training program was efficient as shows the successful training of the current 35 patrollers.

But during his internal training and his companionship, Oliver never had the opportunity to secure in emergency an accident or a car broken down. And even if he had, he was supervised by an experienced patroller. How will Oliver react on his first traffic event, with the stress generated by a daily traffic of 30.000 vehicles including 10.000 trucks?

As an employer, what should Egis do? Should we extend his companionship knowing that it may take months before he actually sees a traffic event? Or should we consider he is trained and let him patrol alone?

At Egis we had the feeling that continuous improvement was possible, and that new technologies would support it.

The virtual reality training module

Egis with the support of Immersive Factory, a French start-up specialising in the design of virtual reality training courses in HSE (Health, Safety, Environment), have developed in 6 month a learning module to train motorway patrollers using virtual reality technology.

The training lasts 15 minutes per exercise. It includes the following steps :

  1. A patroller virtually meets his supervisor who will assign him a duty. This enables the trainee to get used to the virtual reality,
  2. The trainee patrollers will collect his personal protective equipment (PPE). That’s a good way to check if he doesn’t miss anything,
  3. Then the PPE equipped trainee will control his patrol van to see if all equipment such as lighting, oil level, etc. are ok and if all necessary equipment is available,
  4. Once completed, the trainee will be on the trafficked motorway behind the wheel of his virtual van. He will spend a few minutes exploring his environment before coming across one of the 10 random incidents such as a broken-down vehicle, an object in the middle of the road or a serious accident causing injuries or involving hazardous substances. The training is a total immersion in the working environment. The surrounding conditions such as traffic noise, vehicle speed and weather events are reproduced in very realistic detail.

Two levels are available :

  • Beginner mode : directions will be provided during the module.
  • Expert mode : the trainees are on their own.

Different weather conditions and day/night mode are also available to mimic the real life, nd steps 1 to 3 can be skipped to focus on the traffic management.

Statistics on procedural errors made during the immersive experience are available. They enable a continuous improvement of the training.

This training is extremely powerful because, as illustrated below on the Edgar Dale’s cone of experience, trainees retain better what they have experienced.

The new training program for patrollers

Since December 2019, in addition to the 4 weeks training program, all the new patrollers tasked with working on the A63 are now trained certified on completion of this virtual reality course. With this digital and pedagogical tool and in almost real-life conditions, Egis can test patrollers on their knowledge of procedures but also on how they deal with stress.

The outcome is excellent. Some trainees have been surprised by the gap between the ”easy looking” traffic management during companionship, and the (virtual) real life where they need to make some decisions and act quickly. Indeed, as in a real-life situation, thanks to this program they learn that the patroller has barely a few seconds to make the right decisions in this emergency situation: where should I park my van? What light signage should I use? What warning signs and markings should I install?

But new employees are not the only one to be trained. Experienced patrollers, supervisors and managers follow this training module once a year as part of the one day refresher training to keep their knowledge up-to-date. Bad habits can indeed come quickly… The feed-back is again excellent. The training program is considered fun and very efficient. Indeed, if you don’t check your vehicle or if you don’t a comply perfectly with the procedures, the trainee ends up in an accident… Next time he is far more careful!

Finally and unexpectedly, a side effect of the training is the awareness-raising of non-patroller employees. We offered all our employees to test the patroller virtual training platform, and the outcome was beyond expectations! It helped all employees gain a better understanding of the job of patroller leading to team building and additional internal communication.

Innovation to improve safety

Through this innovation, Egis harnesses technological progress to improve the safety of workers and motorists on the road. As safety is a matter for all, our Group extends the benefits of this innovation to all motorway stakeholders thanks to the training module supplied through the virtual reality contractor website.

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