Truck drivers are the most valuable asset your fleet has. They are the ones who keep the machinery of your organization running smoothly. Without them, you simply would not be in business. That’s why training them properly is so important. Fleet managers must develop training programs that are both effective and engender trust among your driving fleet.
The better a company is at training its truck drivers, the better their company will perform. It is critical they help them develop crucial safety skills and behaviors. Doing so creates a more successful, profitable, and safe company in the long run.
A good onboarding program that includes comprehensive and well-documented training is very important. Every company has a unique approach to their business, and even the most experienced drivers need to be onboarded and trained on the company’s policies and practices. A motor carrier’s commitment to ongoing training is one of the best ways to ensure great performance from its truck drivers. Ongoing training helps to fill job-specific skills or knowledge gaps drivers must overcome or learn from.
How to Encourage Buy-In for Your Training Procedures
Trucking companies should view initial training, and ongoing training, as an investment in both the individual truck driver and in the company itself. One way to achieve a faster return on dollars spent on ongoing training is to invest in a company that can help you get it all set up.
Many companies outsource their preventative maintenance programs, so why not do the same with your training programs. Some vendors use live streaming web portals or other digital methods to onboard new drivers. They perform real-time and virtual coaching and training sessions. When the situation demands, they can even troubleshoot issues live in real-time.
There are specific methodologies you can use to build positivity around the benefits of the programs you plan to put into place. Consider the following:
- Ensure your truck drivers understand and remain compliant with changing regulations and policies.
- Keep up to date on the new company, industry, or competition best practices.
- Both raise awareness and develop programs to get truckers more comfortable with safety technologies.
- Create programs and benefits that boost motivation and job satisfaction levels among your employees and truck drivers.
- Set up pathways and create opportunities for truck drivers to grow and succeed, whether through up training, friendly competition, or otherwise.
How to Build an Effective Truck Driver Coaching Program
Training serves one purpose, while coaching serves another. While training will inform truckers regarding the rules of the road, proper defensive driving techniques, company policies, and state and federal rules and regulations.
Truck driver coaching is meant to address specific truck driver behavior problems and behaviors. A great coaching program may be one of the most critical components of developing a strong safety culture. It’s not enough to track and rank your drivers; and a safety incentive or disciplinary policy, on its own, is less likely to improve safety if not accompanied by strong driver coaching.
Try using an automated workflow program to record truck driver performance. This will help you to identify drivers in need of improvement and then provide customized coaching based on real-time video. An automated coaching workflow teaches truck drivers at the completion of their trip while the experience is fresh in their memory. Drivers can see their driving performance, making for more productive conversations with fleet safety managers
Key Steps That Improve Safety Coaching
Develop a comprehensive and compassionate training system that includes alerts. Truck drivers will quickly get the message that safety is the highest priority because of regular reminders. A successful truck driver coaching program can be expected to include:
- Effective Performance Metrics: Monitor and measure truck driver behavior to ensure they have been effectively coached. Without follow up there is no way to ensure your program is on the right path.
- Use Targeted Methodologies: Drivers are more receptive to coaching if it is in response to specific data points or recent events. For example, providing specific data points or video recordings of unsafe practices may help a driver realize change is necessary. Otherwise, they may tune out training as not applicable to their own habits.
- Ensure Open Lines of Communication: Asking a driver what motivated the risky behavior may help a safety manager find out how that truck driver should be coached in the future. It also provides the truck driver with an opportunity to tell their side of the story and feel like a part of the solution.
- Adopt Actionable KPIs: If coaching is effective, it will result in a behavioral change that creates a stronger. The ideal scenario is for the driver and the safety manager to agree on an approach and determine how to measure its success. While driver/manager may not always be possible, determining how to correct the diagnosed problem and how to measure its success is imperative.
- Always Look Back: Measuring improvement and holding drivers accountable for that improvement, is an absolute must and important part of the feedback loop.
How to Build Trust Among your Truck Drivers
As mentioned earlier, a key component to strong safety culture is buy-in from all levels of your organization, especially the driver. Building trust and a strong rapport with the driver will pay dividends in helping reinforce the strong safety culture. One way to do that is to develop programs that encourage drivers to proactively report, without fear of recrimination, when they or other truckers on the payroll violate safety policies or principles. These programs allow truck drivers the opportunity to recognize an unsafe practice within themselves or others and offer an opportunity to address it without fear of punitive action.
A strong program will be structured with clear limits for drivers to correct their errors and receive training to improve their performance but does not allow for perpetual errors or violations. These programs can be an olive branch that kicks off a progressive disciplinary program. Before writes ups, suspensions, and terminations, coaching can be used as an offramp. This gives the truck driver time to improve before anything worse happens.
An example of a program that some companies employ allows a truck driver to admit to alcohol and/or controlled substance use. Special care should be taken with programs related to drug and alcohol admissions to preserve safety, however, and many companies that employ them have strict one-strike policies. This section of the FMCSRs lays out required program elements and, while not applicable to other areas of safety, offers a model on how similar programs in other safety areas could be structured.
Important Documentation Fleet Managers Must Keep Track Of
Professional truck drivers share our nation’s highways and byways with passenger cars and other truck drivers. Keeping everyone safe is in the fleet and the public’s best interest. As such, federal and state government agencies play an important role in making sure everyone complies. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) acts as the primary regulatory body overseeing fleet and driver safety. At the state level, the State Police, Highway Patrol, or Department of Transportation issues and enforces regulations that apply to intrastate operations.
Comply at all times with all federal and state licensing and license endorsement rules. Know and understand all state and local traffic laws. State and local parking laws and anti-idling ordinances. Fleet managers must ensure occasional updates of periodic medical exams and certification documentation. Store all appropriate documents in accordance with local regulations.
The number and type of rules that apply to truck drivers could cause a mix of rules and policies. Ensure someone is there to keep track of the policies. A good example is a need for the human resources and safety departments to communicate and collaborate. They must talk about driver screening, hiring, training, and ongoing qualification requirements. The best fleets on the road have multiple teams and departments to manage overall regulatory responsibilities. Regulatory and safety compliance plays a big part
Effective Truck Driver Coaching and Training Improves Safety Outcomes
Most safety program requires a special methodology. Fleet managers must recognize that truck drivers are a fleet’s most important asset. For them to succeed – indeed, for the entire company to succeed – a strong safety culture must be implemented and tracked.
Developing a world-class safety program requires a two-pronged approach. The first approach starts by recognizing that drivers are a fleet’s most important asset. Helping them to succeed begins with building a strong safety culture and, if successful, ends with improved safety outcomes. A lot of attention must be paid to these factors.
Trucking companies must step into the future prepared to utilize technologies. That is how they ensure an excellent safety record and keep their truck drivers safe. This is the only way they will be able to succeed and outcompete their competition in a post-pandemic world.