There is no such thing as “one and done” when it comes to driver training. Continuing education is part of virtually every professional field, but it’s often an afterthought in commercial fleet delivery.
“These are professional drivers and they’ve got to take professional training [courses] on an ongoing basis,” says Jeremy Morrissey, client solutions director at Kelly Anderson Group, which provides Impact Solutions e-learning tools for driver training. “We really need to change the mindset. Doctors, lawyers — they have to take so many hours of training throughout the year just to keep their license, so it should be the same with drivers. You should take ongoing, professional training throughout the year to keep your tools sharp.”
The company’s PC and Apple-compatible app is structured as a series of modules of varying lengths that can be assigned to specific drivers, who are tested on completion of each module’s content.
“We’re not just a check-the-box kind of training — not ‘yeah, I watched the training’ and then you’re done,” Morrissey says. “You’ve got to pay attention.”
The modules include questions and activities throughout to keep the driver engaged. “It’s not just reading,” Morrissey notes. “People learn different ways.”
Another mindset shift that fleet managers and drivers need to make is changing the notion of training as punitive or remedial. “It’s not just for when there’s an accident, like, ‘here, we’re going to give you a module, you made a sharp turn and hit something and don’t do it again,’” Morrissey explains. “And then six months later, they’re caught speeding and ‘here’s a module for that.’”
Ongoing training, he says, promotes a safety culture within the distribution company and improves the company’s safety scores that enable them to qualify for lower insurance premiums.
Many proactive beverage distributors have developed their own systems to foster safety cultures within their organization. For instance, G.G. Distributing in Tyler, Texas, has implemented its own rigorous protocols, combined with some third-party support.
The distributor holds driver meetings every Tuesday, focusing on a different topic each week.
“These could range from equipment safety and proper use, proper lifting techniques, hygiene safety, to driving in different hazardous conditions,” explains G.G.’s fleet manager, Brandon Murphy.
On the first Tuesday of each month, Murphy scores the drivers on their driving behavior based on the visuals captured on the Samsara onboard cameras. “This lets me see what they’re doing correctly and what needs improvement,” he says.
Once a quarter, the distributorship invites a safety consultant to host a meeting that focuses on the “hot topic” of the moment within the driving industry.
Every six months Murphy will follow each driver — unbeknownst to that driver — and complete a driver evaluation form and then talk to the driver about what behaviors need improving.
And then, once a year, the team goes through a driving training curriculum from Arlington, Texas-based solution provider Smith System.
Whether it’s an in-house system, third-party platform or any combination of those, it’s important to never lose sight of the ultimate goal.
“You took this [driver] position to better yourself, to better your family, and everybody wants to get home safe at the end of the day,” Kelly Anderson Group’s Morrissey says. “If that’s what you want to do every day, [ongoing training systems] are the steps you need to do during the day and throughout your career to make that happen.”