Perfect Practice Makes Perfect?

2handsPractice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. – Vince Lombardi.

Yesterday I touched on a couple of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits. Later Covey developed his 8th Habit— “Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs.” This one habit really concerned putting the other 7 habits into practice. Implementation and execution are always difficult, because learning new habits is difficult.

Learning is Mysterious

Most of us learn by watching others. I started watching truck drivers way back in the gasoline era. Yes— at one time there were few diesel pumps around as gasoline was cheap and plentiful, before the first ‘energy crisis.’

We also learn by practice. If we are self-taught, this is not always the best way to learn because sometimes it is akin to learning by trial and error — as most of us have a tendency to over-rate our own abilities and level of skill.

In the ‘Parking Follies’ video, the first driver sets himself up to fail with his setup and everything goes down hill from there until another driver coaches and spots him. The second driver tries with all his might, but gives up in the end.

What Went Wrong?

One study of human performance by Brooke Macnamara of Princeton, David Z. Hambrick of Michigan State and Frederick Oswald of Rice, found that practice alone, while important, accounts very little for individual differences in performance (only about, on average, 12% depending on the “domain” or area of activity). Age and memory can affect learning and performance, as well as basic aptitude.

“The view that essentially anyone can do essentially anything is not scientifically defensible.” David Lubinski, professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University

The great coach Vince Lombardi found this out in his career when, in 1951, he lost 43 of 45 members of his varsity football team in a cheating scandal. It took him several seasons to rebuild his team.

Starting from Scratch

Performance is an important issue today as more and more motor carriers start their own training schools from scratch to develop new drivers. The key, I believe, as Vince Lombardi did, is to take nothing for granted and truly “start from scratch.”

Every season Lombardi opened up the playbook and started from page one. His only assumption was that the players had forgotten everything they knew from the previous season. In training new truck drivers, on day one, I would tell them to take everything they think they know and throw it out the window.

Performance experts suggest working on one new habit or behavior at a time. Take steering for example. Some carriers expect drivers to use shuffle steering as a safe and effective method to control the vehicle (versus palming the wheel, or using the hand-over-hand method). Performance driving instructor Dave Storton says making shuffle steering a driving habit can take four or five weeks of effort, if a driver is learning it for the first time. There is not enough time in the length of an average truck driving school to make shuffle steering a habit.

Another way to learn faster is by focusing on keystone habits. a term popularized by Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit.” In transportation, good driving is supported by keystone habits as preforming thorough vehicle inspections, scanning in all directions while driving, or careful trip planning. Duhigg says the power of habit comes down to self-discipline and self-discipline outperforms high IQ. As James Clear, author of Transform Your Habits said, “Each day we make the choice to become one percent better or one percent worse.”

In Summary

Take the mystery out of performance by focusing on a mastery of the basics. Get everyone on the same page by focusing on the fundamentals and building good keystone habits throughout the organization. Work at becoming one percent better.

Thank you for reading this.

The Truck Driver Training Conundrum


How does one learn to become a truck driver? What is the training standard?

To safely drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) takes a certain skill set. Ideally, these skills are developed in a manner ensuring both confidence and judgement in their application.

The “mechanical skills” of driving come first and may become a barrier for some who don’t pick up on the rhythm of manually shifting or backing. Age and aptitude usually contribute to success in this area. There has been a gradual shift to automatic transmissions. About 40% to 50% of new trucks, depending on the make, are equipped with automatic transmissions.

Some states have statutory training requirements covering minimum length of training or course content. The U.S. DOT only requires a learner’s permit and road test for a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). The DOT sponsored a Entry-Level Driver Training Advisory Committee (ELDTAC) earlier this year with the mission of developing minimum mandatory training requirements.

The Professional Truck Driver Institute was established in 1986 and like the ELDTAC, developed a set of standards with the help of industry stakeholders. Graduates of PTDI schools receive a  PTDI Certificate of Attainment from the school or PTDI seal on the school’s certificate.

The average length of PTDI-certified courses is four to six weeks. Courses could be as short as two weeks (minimum of 148 contact hours with one-on-one training) to 12 weeks or more.

But Driver Training Shouldn’t End at the Beginning . . .

Drivers often report their safety skills start to become stale after initial training. In some cases, training was cursory. Essential skills like coupling, trip-planning, and preparing a log-book were rushed through or not done at all.  Little time may have been spent on advanced skills like load securement, defensive driving, skid training or emergency procedures.

The United Kingdom has instituted a new, five-year period Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) periodic training program. The CPC is costly (£3,000 or about $4566 U.S.), and has resulted in a drop in license renewals and a driver shortage in the UK.

Companies employing drivers in the U.S. and Canada prefer in-house training or the help of on-line training providers. The American Trucking Association estimates about $7 Billion a year is spent on driver safety training.












What Should A Recurrent Training Program Look Like?

Recurrent training is required by other modes of transportation as rail or air. Recurrent training is important because initial safety training often becomes stale or forgotten. Over time drivers can become reactive instead of proactive. Recurrent training can also help in keeping up with new regulatory and technological changes.

Recurrent safety training can be customized to meet organizational needs. One way to start is to conduct a knowledge survey in a specific area of interest, be it emergency procedures, electronic logging or defensive driving. Another productive means to both gather and impart safety information is by a round table discussion. The group can openly discuss various driving scenarios and/or review recent safety incidents for determining the root cause.

Any training done should be structured. Studies have shown that a structured orientation results in employees feeling more confident and engaged at work.

How Not to Train

• Beware of the “hit and run” approach: training that is too brief, with no follow-up, resulting in transfer-to-the-job skills of no more than 30% of the training content.

• Everything there is know about a topic cannot be taught in one session.

• Don’t throw the book at them. Break everything down into smaller chunks.

• Giver learners time to:
– Reflect
– Experiment
– Apply the new principles

Learning experts have found that adults cannot learn new skills by merely listening to a set of instructions. Adults need time to absorb new information, use it experimentally, and integrate it with their existing knowledge base.

Thank you for reading this.

Other Blogs That may be of Interest . . .

Preventing Dangerous and Deadly Truck Rollaways

Using the 100 Air-Mile Radius Exemption