When a student graduates college, their first employer doesn’t throw them out into the field with no in-house training or guidance. Yes, a degree or certification ensures an education, but employers must train employees on expectations, company culture, and operations. The same goes for CDL drivers. Their CDL courses alone are not enough. Mark Murrell of CarriersEdge chats with MWS about the importance of driver training beyond CDL certification.
MWS: WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO TRAIN FLEET DRIVERS?
MURRELL: Training is important for a variety of reasons. First, the industry is constantly evolving, and there are new regulations, new technologies, and new best practices all the time. So drivers need to get up to speed on these things just to be compliant and do their jobs safely. On top of that, trucking is a service business, and like any service business, the most efficient companies are the most profitable. With tight margins and strong competition, fleets really don’t have the luxury of resting in this area at all—if they aren’t constantly improving their efficiencies then they’ll be behind their competition. In a service industry, that means constantly improving the quality of the people providing the service, which means continuing to train and develop drivers.
Today’s top performing driver looks very different from the top performers 10 years, or even five years ago. If a fleet is relying on hiring a driver with great skills and coasting on that, they’re setting themselves up for failure. The only way to reliably stay ahead of the curve is to continually train the staff.
MWS: HOW OFTEN SHOULD DRIVERS GO THROUGH TRAINING? IS ONE TRAINING COURSE DURING THE HIRING PROCESS ENOUGH?
MURRELL: One training course is definitely not enough. Most fleets we see have anywhere from two to four days of dedicated orientation when drivers are onboarding with the fleet. That orientation will include some online courses (that can often be completed before the driver arrives on day one), some classroom work, and yard or road practice as well. Combined, the different delivery methods and subject areas prepare the driver for their career with the company.
After orientation, it’s important to keep the training going through regular assignments. We don’t suggest requiring an overwhelming number of assignments—just something on a regular basis to keep drivers from getting stale. That might be the equivalent of a couple of hours every quarter. However, if the subjects are chosen well, it can make a significant difference in the overall performance of the fleet.
MWS: WHAT TOPICS SHOULD BE COVERED IN DRIVER TRAINING?
MURRELL: That depends on the issues facing the business and individual driver needs. If there are upcoming regulatory changes then those absolutely need to be covered. There are also seasonal things that are worth reviewing—winter driving in the fall for fleets who operate in snowy areas; back-to-school reminders in late summer; or dealing with construction and recreational vehicles in the spring. On top of that, fleets need to monitor their drivers and watch for trends to address in training. Perhaps fuel efficiency is lagging, and training is warranted there. Perhaps maintenance notices a driver returning equipment in poorer condition than normal, and some inspection training makes sense. Every business has different needs, so it’s important to look at what’s going to help most at the time.
MWS: WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO ADD SAFETY TRAINING COURSES WHEN IMPLEMENTING A SAFETY CULTURE WITHIN A FLEET?
MURRELL: Building a safety culture is about ensuring people know what to do and get in the habit of doing it. Training helps substantially with the first part—making sure people know what to do. It can also help with building the right habits since it can be a good reminder or refresher as well. Often people know the right things to do but fall back into old habits and forget what they learned. Training can be very useful as a reminder, particularly if it’s paired with coaching or some other personalized performance improvement initiative.
MWS: HOW CAN CARRIERSEDGE HELP FLEET OWNERS WITH THE TRAINING PROCESS?
MURRELL: CarriersEdge provides a library of training courses that can form the foundation of a fleet’s broader safety and risk management program. We have online self-study courses that help drivers understand why it’s important to do certain things and how to do them correctly as well as tests to validate that participants have learned what they should. We also have features that let fleet owners track who’s completed their assignments, see who needs additional follow-up, and also keep track of classroom and practical activities. Combined, those elements simplify the process of managing a safety program.
MWS: DOES CARRIERSEDGE OFFER COURSES SPECIFIC TO CERTAIN VOCATIONS?
MURRELL: Yes, we have titles for different vehicle and trailer types. Fleets can choose content that fits their specific needs.
MWS: HOW IS CARRIERSEDGE A BENEFIT TO BOTH DRIVERS AND THE FLEET OWNER/MANAGER?
MURRELL: For both drivers and fleet owners, CarriersEdge provides a way to deliver training that doesn’t require the sacrifice of driving time or home time. Instead of having to come in to the office on a weekend or losing miles during the week, drivers can now get training at their convenience from wherever they happen to be. Less disruption means fleets can deliver more training, more regularly, which helps to improve the overall efficiency of the service they’re offering to their customers (as noted previously).
MWS: ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS?
MURRELL: When considering driver training, it’s important to recognize that trucking generally provides very little training compared to other industries. That includes all sectors—vocational, service fleets, OTR, etc. One big reason for that has been the lack of options for delivering training to a dispersed workforce. Now, with more online tools available, that’s starting to change. One positive thing to come out of the pandemic is the broader adoption of online tools across fleets to improve communication and training. That will go a long way toward helping address the “training deficiency” that trucking has faced compared to other industries, but it will still take some time.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Mark Murrell is president and 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. Find out more, visit www.carriersedge.com.