Great truckers don’t come from nowhere. In an industry characterized by specialized equipment and an ever-broadening array of regulations, it takes time, energy, and dedication to become a qualified driver. In short, it takes training.
Last month, we explored the topic of driver onboarding with Heavy Duty Trucking editor-in-chief Deborah Lockridge, Halvor Lines Director of Driver Services Debbie Landry, and former Compli Sales Director of Transportation John Piper. In a blog post adapted from 4 Steps to Retain Drivers and Keep the Wheels Rolling, Deborah, Debbie, and John shared their thoughts about the value of a first impression and how to leverage technology to improve onboarding procedures.
This week, we’re moving beyond onboarding and into the logical next step for transportation companies who seek to boost their rates of retention: training.
How Top Trucking Companies Conduct Training Throughout the Driver Lifecycle
Training is essential for every business procedure at a trucking company—from safety to fuel efficiency to regulatory compliance. Debbie, whose company boasts rates of driver performance and retention far beyond the industry average, told us that Halvor Lines uses a mentorship model to help new drivers learn safely, comfortably, and effectively:
4 Steps to Retain Drivers and Keep the Wheels Rolling
It’s harder to find drivers — especially good, safe drivers — than ever, which makes it more important than ever to keep them once you’ve found them.
“Finishing training for new drivers lasts between four and five weeks. This is the person that has just come out of driving school and has no experience. They are driving with the trainer for four to five weeks. They are doing everything—they’re doing 80% or more of the driving, they’re planning the route, they’re fueling the truck, they’re talking with the customers, they’re doing the electronic logs—all with the trainer sitting in the passenger seat.
It’s not a team operation by any means. That trainer is there to assist them any way that they can. Maybe that student driver is just tired, maybe it’s the first time to a large city and they’re really nervous, maybe it’s something to do with the weather that’s going on. So then, that trainer can take over at any time. The trainee can sit in the passenger seat and just learn by observing.”
Debbie remarked that this hands-on approach empowers new drivers and keeps them engaged better than a non-interactive handout or presentation can. While there’s value to videos and PowerPoints, she told us, too many materials will cause new drivers to lose interest and stop paying attention.
The same is true for ongoing training on new regulations and safety procedures. Halvor Lines sends regulatory updates to drivers through its newsletter, but pairs those updates with education in a live classroom environment, where drivers can receive personalized attention and critiques.
“That has been really great just for sharpening people’s skills,” she said. Plus, personalized training builds loyalty:
“Most times the trainer will become their mentor, so they have a connection with us here at Halvor Lines. Many times during that training period, they’re in and out of our terminal here in Superior. They’ll come in my office, sit down, and chat with me, so we can really dig into: What do they think of the driving? What do they think of the customers? How is this working for their family with them away from home? As we know, that’s one of the biggest reasons people leave the industry, especially in over the road driving is because they are away from their families.”
The Role of Technology in Training
While hands-on, personalized, live mentorship has plenty of benefits, it’s far from the only method transportation companies use to effectively train their employees. Drivers spend weeks and months on the road, and there isn’t always an opportunity to conduct on-site training.
Fortunately, said John, technology has reached a point where companies can minimize their training costs while maximizing training outcomes:
“I think we all understand the cost saving benefits on delivering training online. But in the transportation industry, these savings are even more profound. Summoning your drivers to the home office or a remote terminal for an in person training is just not always cost effective and, with some exceptions, [it’s] completely unnecessary.”
Pulling your drivers off the road hits both the company’s top and bottom lines. What we find with online training, delivered with a cloud-based management system, [is that] your drivers can keep up with their required training while minimizing idle time. … [N]o driver likes to get off the road to do training, especially if they’re not paid, right? So they can access the courses on their tablet during downtime when they have to take a mandatory break from their cab, or in a WiFi-enabled location such as a truck stop, cafe, or restaurant.”
John told us that, by moving to online training, transportation companies can provide important, timely updates to drivers, wherever they may be located. Additionally, cloud-based technology allows fleets to target educational programming to drivers in certain regions that may be experiencing higher rates of violations or are subject to different compliance standards. Training videos and presentations can be tailored to each driver, reminding them they’re “part of the family” however far they are from home.
The right approach to training, said John, strikes a balance between on-site and cloud-based content:
“I’m not suggesting, by any means, that you never bring your professional driver back into the office. It’s just that you can complement the time that they get back to the office with content pushed out to that driver with that custom video. Some fleets do a monthly newsletter. We’ve seen folks create a monthly video newsletter to send the drivers and, as part of our platform we’ve integrated video management with a tool called CompliView, which lets you upload and distribute videos quickly and easily.”
Up Next: Communication
In the next part of this series, we’ll bring back John, Debbie, and Deborah to discuss ongoing communication with drivers—specifically, the intrinsic connection between communication and retention.
Can’t wait until then? You can view the entire presentation for free, on demand! Access 4 Steps to Retain Drivers and Keep the Wheels Rolling here.
Ask Professor Joe:
Driver Onboarding and Retention in Compligo
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