A new driver training facility under construction at the Edmonton International Airport has the potential to make Edmonton a first-class training destination in North America.

The Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) is currently building a massive new training facility adjacent to the airport. The new facility will feature a five-acre track, a 20,000-square-foot office building, classroom space, an inside truck bay and a simulator.

“It’s a terriffic opportunity for the transportation industry,” says Lorraine Card, president of the AMTA. “We are the only provincial trucking association in Canada that has a facility like this. It really is world class.”

Construction on the new facility started in mid-2017 and the track is expected to be operational in spring 2018. The office and classrooms should be completed by the fall.

The new facility adds much needed training space for the trucking industry. Currently, new drivers practice their skills in public areas and on public roadways. Practice spaces are often impromptu areas, such as parking lots or private lots, and can be cancelled without much notice, which can make training unpredictable. According to Card, providing consistent and predictable spaces makes training for new drivers less intimidating and improves public safety.

With five acres of wide open roadway to work with, the new AMTA training facility will give training providers and partners the ability to set up a variety of scenarios for driver training. Barriers and pylons can stand in for obstacles, allowing for drivers to practice taking on almost any situation from backing into a dock to making tricky turns.

The facility will also house one of the AMTA’s simulators, where drivers can train on conditions that are either dangerous or difficult to recreate on the track.

“We can put drivers into a skid on the system and give them some idea of how the vehicle will react to winter conditions,” says Card.

Artists rendering of the AMTA training facility. Photo courtesy: AMTA

The AMTA owns two simulators. One is stationary, and the other is a mobile, classroom-style setting that the association can take around the province so companies can train their drivers closer to their facilities. That one will remain mobile, while the stationary simulator will be moved to the new facility.

The truck driving simulator will be one of multiple training simulators at the Edmonton International Airport. Canadian North currently operates a 737 simulator, while HNZ Topflight operates a helicopter simulator. As well as these training facilities, the AMTA development is part of a broader plan from the airport authority to bring more services onto the airport grounds. A new shopping mall is under construction, a new hotel was recently completed and the airport features a golf course. But more importantly, the training facility adds to the airport’s ability to serve clients in the transportation and logistics industry.

“EIA is very happy to be collaborating with AMTA to create this world-class training facility,” says Geo Herdman, EIA director of real estate. “It will help to make the Edmonton Metro Region into a destination for training and safety services, and will also help to develop the region’s logistics sector as well as diversifying our economy. AMTA’s facility will be a valuable part of the region’s rapidly growing aerotropolis.”

The airport location was one of the selling points for the AMTA. Being at the airport means they can attract international attention, bringing in customers and clients from around the continent to train and learn about conditions in Canada.

“If companies know their drivers are coming north, knowing they are driving in winter conditions, they can spend time in the simulator and then head out to the track,” says AMTA’s Card.