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Reinventing The Way Drivers Are Trained

Reinventing The Way Drivers Are Trained

The vast majority of trucking fleets believe they are providing quality, ongoing driver training. Statistics, though, might be telling a different story. According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) data, as of June 2019, fatalities in crashes involving large trucks or buses have increased 11.1% in the last five years, from 4,455 in 2013 to 4,949 in 2018.

FreightWaves' SONAR data tracks Department of Transportation Reportable Accidents on a monthly basis (SONAR: APS.USA) and found that over the past five years, they have generally fluctuated between 13,000 and 18,300. May 2019 was just under 15,000 accidents and almost identical to the May 2016 numbers. However, the number of miles per week for company fleet and leased dry vans has dropped during that time. According to SONAR's Miles Per Truck per Week data (SONAR: MILTR.VCFOO), trucks in May 2016 drove an average of 1943.1 miles, but that dropped to 1917.4 miles in May 2019.

DOT Reportable Accidents on a monthly basis over the past five years. (Photo: FreightWaves' SONAR: APS.USA)

Miles per truck per week over the past five years. (Photo: FreightWaves' SONAR: MILTR.VCFOO)

Experts are weighing in, blaming the rise on everything from too much technology in the cab, to more miles being driven than ever before because of the robust economy. Another reason could be improper training programs.

"You want drivers to understand why it matters and how it affects them, and the fleets that treat them well and do that, do very well [in recruiting and retention]," Mark Murrell, co-founder and president of CarriersEdge. "It's not patronizing. We treat them like adults."

CarriersEdge was founded in Canada in September 2005 on the belief that there was a better way to train drivers. Murrell, along with co-founder and CEO Jane Jazrawy, think that engaging drivers in the training and making it relatable to their jobs is a more efficient way to teach than having the driver simply watch a video or presentation.

"What we try to do is say, what does the driver need to do their job," Jazrawy told FreightWaves on Oct. 30, 2019, at the North American Commercial Vehicle Show (NACV) in Atlanta.

The company is perhaps most famous for its partnership with the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) on the Best Fleets to Drive For program, the winners of which are announced each spring at the TCA annual conference. It began offering its training products, which are now available in English, Spanish, French and Punjabi, to U.S. fleets in February 2015.

And it continues to add new courses. At NACV, CarriersEdge announced a new Weights and Dimensions course. "Nearly every state differs in the way weight and dimension limits are governed," Jazrawy said. "This course aims to alleviate the confusion that can stem from understanding the regulations so that drivers can stay compliant and avoid citations."

Like the more than 80 other courses in CarriersEdge's library, the Weights and Dimensions course utilizes images, real-life examples, and interactivity to create an engaging training program that benefits drivers. Quizzes and a final test create a record for fleets to maintain proving the driver successfully completed the training.

"When you do a course on a [new or existing] regulation, it's not just about saying it in a language that people understand," Murrell explained. "[It's about showing] how their day is impacted."

Jazrawy said that courses not only address regulations, but also provide suggested ways to interact with enforcement personnel, including what the driver can expect during the interaction, and ways to make that interaction go smoother.

"We try to have a holistic approach," Murrell added.

One continuing mistake that Murrell sees fleets make is not being able to articulate what they are about to drivers. Most fleets cite their focus on safety, treating drivers like family, and having an open-door policy, he said, noting that fleets that have worked with CarriersEdge are moving past these generic statements.

"If people are always saying the same thing, it's because they don't know what to say," Murrell noted. "Now, we don't hear about an open-door policy so much, but we do hear about specific programs."

When creating the training programs, Jazrawy said she spends a lot of time perusing driver boards on social media.

"People don't do that enough and there is a lot of good information on there," she said. "[We've] started courses because people don't know what the rules are about."

Some fleets are reluctant to incorporate video training fearing that it renders the safety manager's job obsolete, Jazrawy said, but that shouldn't be the case. In fact, video training provides a nice complement to ongoing training.

"[Adoption of online training] is slow, but when they do it, the safety manager finds they have more time … and can provide more individual training for those that need it," Jazrawy said.

CarriersEdge courses are available in introductory, refresher and remedial formats, on subjects including defensive driving, hours-of-service rules, vehicle inspections, and handling hazardous materials.

Image Sourced from Pixabay

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