The construction of tunnels and other underground structures requires highly skilled persons on all levels. When it comes to mechanized tunnelling, industry experts working in ITA WG14 and ITAtech have underlined the fact that one of the primary factors influencing the result of a TBM excavation is the know-how of the TBM driver (pilot).
In an era of increasing digitisation, the use of simulators for TBM driver training has been attracting growing interest over recent years, with various companies developing equipment that can recreate the geologies and operating conditions encountered out on the field. These simulators have the advantage of helping trainee drivers to acquire the correct reflexes for dealing with a wide variety of situations that they may come across in real-life excavation.
However, knowing how to operate a TBM is not the only skill that TBM drivers need to master in order to perform their tasks correctly. Knowledge of aspects such as hydrogeology, geotechnics and support technologies are vital if they are to know how to weigh up risks and handle critical situations. Efficient communication between TBM drivers and construction stakeholders is also of prime importance and can only be guaranteed through a common language and understanding of the requirements and risks inherent to underground construction projects.
The ITA-CET Committee has therefore decided to develop a TBM driver certification scheme, following an initiative from ITA WG14 and the ITAtech Activity Group on Excavation (SubAG TBM Service Guideline). This scheme will adopt a holistic approach, by encompassing classroom teaching (including viewpoints from designers, contractors, owners and suppliers), e-learning, training on a simulator and supervised work experience. The aim is to provide an independent and standardized means of assessing TBM drivers, leading to recognised ITA certification that should ultimately improve the overall quality of TBM based works.
This certification scheme will be offered to future operators of TBMs as well as those already in the profession, who wish to deepen their knowledge of how to handle a TBM under various demanding circumstances. Only approved TBM simulators that respect pre-defined criteria will be used on the scheme and the trainers will be experienced TBM experts. The final training in a real TBM driver’s seat will be gained under the supervision of experienced drivers.
To gain the final ITA TBM “driving license” for a specific TBM type (in the form of a registered certificate), the applicant will need to successfully complete different modules (theory-based elements with e-Learning and lectures, online exams, simulator training and assessment, oral assessment and proven working experience).
The idea is to enable interested training entities around the world to deliver the courses, provided that they respect the rules of the certification scheme. Quality audits will be conducted by an independent, external entity.
Pedagogical aspects will be the responsibility of the ITA-CET Committee (AG2), while administrative aspects will be dealt with by the ITACET Foundation.
A first one-week pilot course is envisaged for mid 2020 at the Hagerbach Test Gallery in Switzerland. It will be conducted by experienced TBM experts and can be tailored for specific TBM types. The detailed syllabus of the ITA TBM Driver Certification Scheme will be published after final approval by the ITA-CET Committee Steering Board and implemented in collaboration with ITACET Foundation.