Safe commercial auto fleets start with safe drivers, and there’s good reason fleet managers should make driver training a top priority. Not only can proper training ensure everyone is safe on the road, it can also help protect your bottom line. Other benefits of training may include improved productivity, reduced labour issues, potential for in-house advancement, and regulatory compliance. This is important as on-the-job accidents may result in significant losses, including property damage, legal fees, loss of business from negative publicity, and more.
While Mandatory Entry Level Training (MELT) is being implemented throughout Canada (the program is currently in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta), it’s geared towards new commercial truck drivers. Kevin Dutchak, Senior Risk Specialist at Sovereign Insurance, notes that even seasoned drivers should have refresher training to reinforce their knowledge and skills, and some drivers may need corrective training if issues arise. Either way, having your own driver training program can help your company proactively manage risk.
Components of a driver training program vary depending on the training objectives, but can include in-class presentations; group demonstrations (e.g. defensive driving training in a vehicle such as a van to allow for multiple participants); one-on-one training (e.g. corrective action training); online training; and third-party vendor training, which can provide specialized instruction that may be too costly for a small company to provide on its own.
Driver training provides one of the best opportunities to improve the effectiveness of the driver in their role, with the ultimate goal of improving driver safety and performance. To help you get on your way to a safer operation, Kevin provides an overview of how to administer, enforce, and document a driver training program.
Administering: Driver trainer programs are typically administered through the safety management function within an organization. Instructors or coaches (either in-house experts or outside instructors) provide training both in class and on the road.
A defensive driving class, for example, might start with an in-class session on driver theory and practices, followed by the coach demonstrating those practices on the road. Trainees would then be put to the test and evaluated on how successfully they put defensive driving principles into practice.
Other topics in a driver training program might include vehicle inspection, hazard avoidance, winter driving, transportation of dangerous goods, load securement, and hours of service compliance.
Tip: Design your training program to be engaging. To keep drivers’ attention and cater to different learning preferences by offering content in a variety of formats, such as videos, interactive activities, online learning, and hands-on learning.
Enforcing: A driver training program doesn’t end when the proverbial school bell rings. Once the initial training and testing is done, drivers should be monitored on an ongoing basis to ensure they’re still following safety protocols and company procedures.
Monitoring tools include random spot checks to see if drivers are doing proper pre-trip inspections; ride-alongs or shadow runs whereby supervisors evaluate drivers on the road; feedback from other drivers in the fleet; and feedback from the public that comes in through unsafe-driver call services.
On the high-tech side, telematics systems can use GPS technology, sensors and vehicle data to monitor drivers’ behaviours. The system collects and transmits a broad range of information including hard braking, speeding and harsh acceleration. This feedback helps you identify at-risk drivers and reinforce the training you provided in the program.
Tip: Incentives can help reinforce safe practices. Consider rewarding drivers who receive positive evaluations with incentives such as gift cards, cash bonuses, or merchandise.
Documenting: As the saying goes, if you didn’t document it, it didn’t happen. In the fleet industry, it’s critical to document all forms of education, training, and corrective actions, with details on who provided the training, who was trained, what they were trained in, and when it took place.
While there are various regulatory requirements around driver training documentation, it’s also important from a risk-management perspective. In the event of a loss that goes through litigation, you can help protect your company by being able to show records on the driver’s training. The more detailed your documentation, the better.
Tip: Have your drivers sign all of the documentation about their training, as well as sign company policies that state they have read, understand and will comply with the policy. While nothing is guaranteed in court, it’s better to have your i’s dotted and your t’s crossed. This also ensures that drivers and their managers are in agreement with what training has taken place and what measures or corrective actions were implemented. Driver training programs are an investment in your people, and being proactive in mitigating risks before they happen helps you build a resilient business. Sovereign Insurance can work with your broker to help you continue to build a culture of safety. Contact your broker to learn more.