The Truck Driver Training Conundrum

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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.

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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