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Keeping Truck Drivers In Mind Series: Part II – Truck Driver Training

In Part II of our series on keeping your truck drivers in mind, we wanted to take a closer look at how you are training your truck drivers. How you train your truck drivers is just as important as how you communicate with them.

They say perception is reality, and how your truck drivers perceive you are training and communicating with them can be just as concrete as what you are actually doing. Do your truckers feel valued? Do they feel appreciated as career professionals? The best motor carriers go far beyond simple truck driver training, they also help their employees improve their skills.

Fortunately, technology increasingly plays a role in ensuring trucking companies are properly training their people. By utilizing technology, motor carriers can help pull all the disparate pieces of training and development together to ensure their truck drivers are the best of the best. When it comes to hiring and retaining truck drivers, you’ve got to make sure your training and communication endeavors are firing on all cylinders.

Is your fleet doing its best to interact positively with its truck drivers? More importantly, are your trainers properly delivering a method of communication that gets across to them that the fleet cares not only about how they are getting paid, but their overall wellbeing? Most fleets have a training manager, but do they have a retention manager? In many cases that answer is no.

When it comes to retaining truck drivers, the responsibility generally falls upon the operations side. Many think that a truck driver’s direct supervisor also plays a huge role – whether trough action or inaction – in determining whether or not a truck driver remains satisfied in his or her job. Yet, that isn’t always the case.

Different Approaches Based on Experience

Getting deeper into the discussion on how fleets can best interact with their truck drivers, one must look at which truck drivers are seasoned pros, and which are new hires. Experienced truck drivers tend to have the lowest level of turnover; thus, they need to be trained and utilized in a different way than new truck drivers.

Experienced truck drivers often carry a lot of weight with their peers and are leaders among the pack. Never treat veteran truck drivers as though they are fresh out of the gate. When crafting how you uptrain and communicate with experienced truck drivers, realize that you must craft an approach that speaks to them specifically. When you create training, incentive, and reward programs, they must be tailored specifically to the truck drivers in question. Experienced truck drivers respond positively to million-mile incentive programs because they very often have those miles under their belt.

New truck drivers should be given more attention than the seasoned professionals. When it comes to operating a Class 8 commercial motor vehicle, they will need a lot of safety training immediately, with operational, dispatch, ELD, and other forms of training soon to follow. Many fleets require their new truck drivers to watch a certain amount of training and safety videos during orientation.

From Hands-On to Online

Many fleets are moving their training and communication efforts from a hands-on approach to a technological approach, whether it be through video or other web-based technologies. Motor carriers now have the capability, whether in-house or outsourced, to create training modules that can be accessed from wherever the truck driver is. Web-based modules offer a level of training and communication integration that the truck drivers of yesteryear could only dream of.

Some outsourcing training operators even offer truck driving simulators, where new truckers can actually simulate driving a Class 8 vehicle in specific situations. Imagine being able to put a new tuck driver in a simulator that provides them with real-time winter-like driving conditions.

There have even been test groups where control groups were used to study whether simulator training was effective and found that the close monitoring of both the simulation and classroom results found that simulator training was quite effective in shaping how truck drivers react to real world scenarios.

After the simulation, truck drivers can be tested on specific aspects of the scenario. For experienced truck drivers, you can even have them do once-a-year testing to double check their skills or provide them with new scenarios to learn. In many cases, experienced truck drivers find these simulations to be quite fun.

Training simulation and digital training modules can also be connected to sensors and video cameras installed on the trucks. This way the training can be customer-tailored to the needs of the truck drivers themselves. Are you finding a certain truck driver is tending to speed or commits illegal lane changes? Why not tailor your training simulation or web-based module to address that specific need?

Combining the Best Strategies

The fact is this: good communication and comprehensive training should be linked together. When a company provides interactive self-study modules, truck drivers are better placed to learn because they are receiving the information in a less-disruptive way.

Still, online training and connected technologies may represent a brave new way of addressing truck driver training needs, you still need coaching and mentoring to supplement what you are doing on the training and communication side. Do you have experienced truckers mentoring your new truck drivers? Furthermore, are you using classroom and physical lesson components to supplement your online and web-based initiatives? You will need a library of content that applies to truck drivers in almost every situation.

Does your training program address more than simply driving a vehicle? Consider that your truck drivers will have to work with new technologies that they may not already be familiar with. They will also need to comply with new regulatory requirements. If they are out on the road and wind up facing a roadside inspection, how will they handle it?

This is where the benefits of in-cab training come into play. In-cab training and coaching provides a level of empowerment to your truck drivers, making them feel as though they are a part of the solution. It also provides gentle coaching while helping your fleet increase its fuel efficiency. Systems like these work by providing tones or alerts when a truck driver goes out of optimal fuel range or engages in a behavior that is counter to what they should be doing while operating the vehicle.

A lot of these systems also employ machine learning, so once a system is installed on a particular vehicle, it can follow and learn that truck driver’s specific behaviors and fine-tune its training to address those behaviors. It can even consider specific engine and truck types when addressing how to coach the truck driver. And since the operator is getting feedback from a machine, the method of delivery is completely neutral. There is no way a machine can come off as condescending.

Technology also provides a motor carrier with a common denominator. There are no gray areas. You know exactly what you are getting when you choose to go with a technological training solution. Why take a chance when you can use methods that won’t leave you wondering about whether they are effective or not. Many companies and outsourcers exist to help your fleet make the transition into a technological training and development solution.

The idea, in using these technologies, is to coach your truck drivers on what they are doing right or wrong without making them feel isolated or spoken down to. By utilizing technology, whether it be a simulator or in-cab training device, you can take out the prospect of needlessly upsetting your truck drivers simply because you have not taken the right approach. Speaking of the right approach…

Keeping the Right Attitude

More than anything, whether your truck driver is brand new or has years under their belt, you want to make sure you are communicating in such a way that doesn’t make them feel like they are being talked down. You don’t want to come off as condescending or treating your truck drivers as though they are not aware of something they should be aware of.

You will always get a more positive response from your truck drivers when you address them positively and in a constructive fashion. No one likes criticism or being told they are doing something wrong, but it is all about the method of delivery. If you are letting your people know that they are valued in a positive way, they will respond more positively to your feedback, thus creating better results for everyone.

Of course, training and how you approach coaching may not work on everyone within the organization, but it will go a long way to ensuring that you are covering all your bases. The best way to attract and retain the best people is to have a good organization in place. Are you doing everything you can where recruiting, retention and training are concerned? If not, you may not be doing enough.

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