The pandemic-fueled surge in online sales has not only created frenzied conditions inside the nation’s e-commerce DCs; it has also led to a crush of vehicles outside in the yard. That, in turn, has boosted demand for “hostlers” and “yard jockeys,” truck drivers whose main job is moving loaded or unloaded trailers around the site.
These hostlers are typically entry-level workers who get their only training on the job—unlike, say, longhaul truckers, who receive hours of instruction before they’re allowed on the road. And the work is not easy. In a 10-hour shift, a hostler might have to back, turn, and move 50 to a hundred trailers, working in a confined space full of people and other vehicles, according to Advanced Training Systems, a developer of driver training simulators.
To do that well and safely, a few hours of informal training is not enough, Advanced Training Systems CEO John Kearney said in a release. “These employees need to be given a well-educated understanding of the space they’re operating in,” he wrote.
But that raises the question of how to do that. Kearney believes the solution lies in technology. “The best way to provide that understanding is through virtual-reality simulator training, which enables workers to learn to operate heavy equipment in a confined space without endangering themselves or anyone else,” he said.
“We have two major supply chain problems in this country, an exploding e-commerce boom and a looming shortage of truck drivers. Properly trained, yard jockeys and hostlers can provide part of the solution to both,” Kearney wrote.