Figuring out how to balance online, classroom, yard practice and on-road coaching can be tricky, but getting it right can have a huge impact on safety and driver efficiency.
That said, before we dive into how different training tools work best together or separately, it’s important to take a step back and highlight scenarios we often see where fleets try to resolve a safety issue through training, when the issue at hand requires another form of action. While training can help improve a driver's particular set of driving skills, best practices for doing their job, or general education, certain issues – like driver behavior or problems in operations they may encounter – require another approach.
If there’s an issue with driver behavior – for example, a driver that is repeatedly involved in speeding events – you need to ask yourself, "Why does that person continue to speed?" Is it a bad habit or an awareness issue? Does the driver feel compelled to make up for lost time after sitting in traffic or catch up due to delays with a shipper?
If you don't figure out the "why" behind the action, you might not be able to identify the best approach to resolve the issue. In the case of re-occurring speeding, assigning remedial training alone likely won’t solve the issue. Repetitive behavior may indicate other underlying issues in the business that need to be improved to reward best safety practices.
If there are issues that relate to drivers following a specific policy, investigate why. Have you communicated the policy and can people understand it? Is it a widespread issue? Policy documents are not training, they are a list of rules to abide by. But people mix the two often. Such questions can pinpoint your potential problems, which can help you decide if training is necessary. People are less likely to follow policies if it’s unclear as to why they need to follow them in the first place. If those expected to follow a specific policy don’t understand the reasoning behind it, and if there is no good reason or answer for its mandate, should the policy in question even exist? Or does it need to be revised?
By determining the issues you’re trying to solve, and whether it requires a change in training practices (or other forms of communications or operational practices) you’re in a better position to resolve the problems at hand.
When it comes to driver training, it’s better to not rely on just one course of action. A multimodal approach to solving the issue is more effective to gain traction and buy-in.
Let's look at what each tool does well to get a sense of how best to use them in combination.
Classroom training works best when your content requires interaction, or when introducing something new. Group discussion in a classroom setting offers different points of view and perspectives. Trainers can easily figure out how people feel in a way that online questions or surveys cannot.
Online training is good for figuring out the “why” part of the job, and for things that can't be touched or practiced in the yard. Additionally, it is an ideal solution for covering introductory topics, rolling out new technology, or a new concept for classroom training that might be planned for another time. It’s also useful to cover the human resources or regulatory side of trucking; like why a particular rule is being put into place, and what certain terms mean. It is a great option to outline the various steps and processes drivers need to go through.
Much of what is taught in the classroom that concerns equipment is better suited for the yard. Even with visual aids, understanding the mechanical functions of equipment can prove to be difficult, especially in a large group setting.
The solution is to convert classroom lectures into online training and reassign experts to the yard for providing more personalized demonstrations. Some people don't truly learn until they go through the practical aspect, regardless of how well they do on a test or how attentive they are in class.
Best practices for combining different methods
Holistic multimodal training is about integrating as many modes of training into your overall training plan. The more involvement across a company, the better the learning experience for everyone. A best practice is to provide the same training to office staff and the drivers so that if an employee doesn't understand something, any staff member can remind them.
Create a “living” training program – one that is continually being developed, changed and improved. Tailoring your classroom, online and practical training modalities in accordance with the honest feedback you receive is key to buy-in and training longevity.
Mark Murrell is co-founder of CarriersEdge, a leading provider of online driver training for the trucking industry, and co-creator of Best Fleets to Drive For, an annual evaluation of the best workplaces in the North American trucking industry produced in partnership with the Truckload Carriers Association. He can be reached at www.carriersedge.com