Driver Trainee

Your driver finishing program should cover the actual work functions you expect the trainees to perform upon graduation and should include information about your company’s specific policies and procedures.

This article is from the Summer 2016 issue of The Quill. To view the full issue, visit The Quill archive.

Ensuring that your drivers are prepared to be on the road is the most important step you can take to protect your drivers’ and others’ safety. The first article in our Driver Training Academy series covered techniques for educating new drivers. In this installment, we take a look at providing additional driver training through a finishing program.

Whether your student drivers come from a truck driving school or you choose to train them from the start on your own, you still need to have a driver finishing program. A finishing program covers the final details of being a professional truck driver and gives students practical experience with your operation. If you choose to hire trainees from a truck driving school, ensure that they have been properly educated on the basic topics listed in Part I of this series.

During the driver finishing program, students must complete at least 240 hours of behind-the-wheel training to be compliant with Protective’s Minimum Loss Prevention & Safety Standards. A trainer must ride in the passenger seat for all 240 hours and all miles must be traveled on regular public roads. Range and parking lot time should also be used as much as possible to give students substantial time to practice close maneuvers, safe backing, coupling and uncoupling, load securement and other procedures. However, note that any practice time on the range or parking lot does not count toward the 240 hours of behind-the-wheel time.

Students should be trained with their future responsibilities and your specific operation in mind. Training should mirror the actual work functions you expect the trainees to perform upon the program’s completion. Include training on your company’s geographical areas of operation, types of loads, road and weather conditions, and other topics directly related to the driver’s day-to-day responsibilities. Also cover topics related to the driver lifestyle, including the practical aspects of driving on weekends, evenings and early morning hours and how to handle being away from family for multiple days or weeks. If the students’ training period does not encompass winter driving, bring them back during the winter months for specific training on ice and snow.

Fully document student progress, including the miles driven each day (empty versus loaded), commodities hauled, traffic, road and weather conditions, times of the day they drove, overall daily performance, any guidance that was provided, areas needing improvement and areas where progress has been demonstrated. Any areas that require improvement should be addressed in future training.

The following recommendations are industry best practices and will also assist you in complying with Protective’s Minimum Loss Prevention & Safety Standards for student driver training.

Dispatch & Training Runs

Allow additional dispatch time to give the trainer time for training, practice and coaching. The trainer must be awake and in the passenger seat observing the trainee, and the trainer’s time should be recorded as On-Duty, Not Driving. Dispatch the truck as a single-driver unit—if dispatched as a team, the finishing program is not considered training. If a student is to run as part of a team operation after graduating the program, wait to dispatch the student as part of a team until his or her 240 hours of behind-the-wheel training time on pubic highways is complete.

When runs require overnight accommodations, consider permitting the trainer to sleep in a hotel and the students to sleep in the sleeper berth and shower at truck stops. This gives the trainer a reward for their efforts and permits students to get the true feeling of life on the road.

After graduating from a finishing program, a student still has a great deal to learn. Practice a gradual approach to expanding load assignments and geographical areas.

Measuring Success

At the conclusion of the training program, students should be required to pass a road exam comparable to the CDL test, administered by a different instructor than the one who trained the students. This will help verify students are ready to go solo and also indicate the quality of the trainer’s performance.

Measure your training program by tracking all students’ performance for at least one year after graduating the finishing program. Track collisions, incidents, roadside inspections, hours-of-service compliance, moving violations, all other regulatory compliance requirements and customer satisfaction. Compare each student’s performance to others that had the same trainer and other trainers. It is also helpful to track students’ performance based on the truck driving schools they attended, so you can choose from the best-performing schools in the future. Use any information you can to analyze your training program and make adjustments as necessary to strengthen student performance.

Also be sure to give students the opportunity to evaluate their training, both throughout the program and at its completion. Did the program and trainer meet their expectations? Did they feel the trainer helped them excel or limited their potential?

Continuing Driver Development

After finishing program graduation, a student still has a great deal to learn. Try to keep him or her relatively local or assign loads that will permit them to run with another truck whose driver has safe driving habits. Practice a gradual approach to expanding load assignments and geographical areas.

Talk with the graduate after the first week to see how he or she is doing, review performance and provide coaching. Help the graduate understand that you are sincerely interested in his or her performance and personal success. Repeat the review and coaching process every few weeks, making sure drivers feel comfortable enough to openly discuss any challenges they are having. Follow through on any promises made during the training program and let drivers know they can always come to you for positive career development.

After the first month, bring the graduate back in for a road test follow-up to see if they are having challenges with the inspection and safe operation of the equipment. Take full advantage of telematics to monitor performance and provide coaching.

Keep in mind that individuals training to be truck drivers may not want to remain in that role their entire career. Some may want to move into operations, safety or other fields. Educate graduates about their career path options. Stay in regular contact with new drivers to help them feel like valued employees and move them along their desired career path.

  • Categorized in:
  • Transportation Safety
  • Driver Management