SOWELA is First College in Louisiana to Incorporate Virtual Reality Technology into its CDL Training Program

CDL Students Utilize Both State-of-the-art Virtual Reality and Simulation Technology to Gain Experience with a Wide Range of Driving Scenarios

(Lake Charles, Louisiana – June 22, 2023)

SOWELA Technical Community College is Louisiana’s first Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) training program to incorporate virtual reality (VR) technology into its curriculum. The L3 Harris Hawk-I Virtual Reality Experience provides students with pre-trip inspection practice, giving users a checklist to work through on the virtual 18-wheeler. Additionally, it helps students understand essential truck maintenance and troubleshooting.

The CDL program also added a $130,000 L3 Harris simulator. The simulator helps students familiarize themselves with driving a tractor-trailer before getting behind the wheel of a real one. Harnessing the power of repetitive learning, students’ driving skills develop in a safe and controlled environment where they can make mistakes virtually. Feedback tools enable the instructor to pinpoint bad driving habits and provide customized critiques.

“The VR and simulator technology builds students’ confidence because most have never driven a manual transmission,” said CDL Instructor Byron Knox. “It creates hand and feet coordination before driving the real trucks, easing that initial fear. Adding a layer of training, especially for first-time shifters, enables them to become familiar with the gear pattern, which causes less wear and tear on the real trucks.”

For the driving simulator and VR system, the instructor determines the terrain students will drive through. Students can experience a wide variety of variables, including weather conditions, locations, types of traffic, types of roads and times of day. Various truck types are also available, including tractor-trailers, buses, garbage trucks and SWOT vehicles. The CDL simulator is approved by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

SOWELA’s Class A license training program is a comprehensive 245-hour classroom and behind-the-wheel program. Training covers Louisiana Department of Transportation (DOT) rules and regulations, pre-trip inspection, backing pad skills, and on-the-road skills. SOWELA also offers a free online CDL permit course to those who want to take the training but still need their permit.

State-approved examiners administer the final skills test necessary to receive a state license. Completers who obtain their state license are qualified to drive tractor-trailers, dump trucks, tow trucks, delivery trucks, tanker trucks, and flatbed trucks.

According to the Louisiana Workforce Commission, tractor-trailer truck drivers are four-star jobs based on salary, job outlook and educational requirements. Experienced truck drivers can earn $58,000 on average or more if driving cross-country. Truck drivers are in demand nationally.

To register for the CDL training class, visit our CDL Training page. For more information, call (337) 421-6560 or email Scholarships and financial assistance are available for those who qualify.

About SOWELA Technical Community College

SOWELA Technical Community College provides traditional, online, and lifelong learning experiences and awards associate degrees, technical diplomas, and certificates. The College empowers learners in career and technical education and enables transfer students to pursue a four-year degree, so all learners excel as globally competitive citizens. The College has been educating the region’s workforce for 85 years and has locations in Jennings, Lake Charles, Leesville and Oakdale, Louisiana.

3820 Senator J. Bennett Johnston Avenue
Lake Charles, Louisiana 70615
(337) 421-6565
(800) 256-0483

Mon-Thu: 7:45 AM to 4:15 PM
Friday: 7:45 AM to 12:00 PM
(337) 421-6550

SOWELA Technical Community College does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, disability, or age in its programs and activities. The following person(s) have been designated to handle inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies:

Title IX Officer

Candy Parker

(337) 421-6510 or (800) 256-0483

3820 Sen. J. Bennett Johnston Ave. Lake Charles, LA 70615

ADA Officer

Maegan Lewis

(337) 421-6952 or (800) 256-0483

3850 Sen. J. Bennett Johnston Ave. Lake Charles, LA 70615

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