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Driver trainers are too valuable to be in the classroom

A driver trainer’s job is to take what they know and coach up the drivers in the fleet to become top performers themselves.

Whenever I chat with fleets about CarriersEdge, and what our online training services can offer, I’m always pretty sure about the questions I will be asked and confident in my replies. Not much stumps me. But when I attended the Mid-America Trucking Show a few months ago, a potential client asked me what we say to drivers who feel threatened by our online training. It felt like déjà vu. I had been asked that same question 12 years ago. And, I remember that back then, I really had to think about how I would respond.

The answer remains the same today as it did back then.

My first thought, when originally asked the question, was “why would a driver trainer have an issue with an eLearning system?” After all, trainers were some of the earliest proponents in the development of eLearning, so why would they feel threatened? However, after mulling the question around, I realized what was going on.

The issue wasn’t that eLearning was a threat to a driver trainer’s job security, rather driver trainers were forgetting what their job really was. They were grossly undervaluing their time and skills.

When you look at fleets that have yet to implement some form of online driver training, you’ll find driver trainers spending a large amount time giving presentations to rooms full of drivers on an assortment of training topics. If classroom education is a large part of their job, then naturally, they’ll feel threatened by the prospect of an online training system.

But that really shouldn’t be the case. Online training is liberating.

The reality is, it isn’t a driver trainers’ job to stand at the front of a room and conduct classroom training sessions on HOS, hazmat, or other routine regulatory content. The skills, knowledge and experience that allowed them to become a top performer in the industry are far too valuable for that.

A driver trainer’s job is to take what they know and coach up the drivers in the fleet to become top performers themselves. In other words, it’s their responsibility to build a high performing fleet. It’s up to the driver trainer to identify how they can get the most out of their drivers’ performance, and continue to raise the bar of what is expected.

If driver trainers view their job in a different way and realize that eLearning is a tool to help them, they will be able to perform their job more effectively and efficiently. It’s similar to how carpenters use air tools, like nail guns, to complete projects rather than hammering nails manually. Overall, tools in the trucking industry have advanced. Use them, and you’re more productive.

Drivers can take courses on important topics on their own time – and when it’s convenient. And, online training provides clear feedback on what drivers actually learn, as well as documenting what they know and don’t know. With this info, it makes it easier for a driver trainer to assist individual drivers in areas where they need additional help. When that happens, a driver trainer has a “hands-on” approach to training that produces results.

Through increased technology, driver trainers have plenty of tools to work with to pinpoint specific areas drivers need extra practice. More and more fleets are using dash-cams to show a driver’s on-road performance and many have simulators that let people practice driving in a safe environment. A driver trainer is there to monitor and help the drivers – providing meaningful feedback to help drivers fine-tune their skills.

By focusing on practical training, driver trainers can become more of a mentor to drivers and help with their professional growth. Practical training is valuable to a fleet and can only be delivered by a seasoned expert who knows that fleet’s distinct business environment. They’re invaluable.

Once we point out to driver trainers the intentions of online training, they usually come around, and it’s no longer seen as a threat. Delivering routine content to drivers that are half-interested on a regular basis is not all that exciting. Most driver trainers would much rather be out in the yard or on the road with drivers because they know that can have a much more significant impact on improving the driver’s skill level.

When fleet managers ask me what I would say to a driver trainer about moving training online and out of the classroom, my response is blunt: “Standing at the front of a class all the time is a waste of that trainer’s expertise – they’re far too valuable for that.”

When I say that, I usually see a light go on their heads and they start thinking about all the other things they’d like their trainer to be doing instead. Fleet managers get excited about the prospect of having a trainer available to work one-on-one with drivers and really make a meaningful difference.

That’s what trainers are there to do – make a meaningful difference for every driver in the fleet. The more we can help them with online training delivery, the more they can focus on doing what they do best. And, the better the fleet will be as a result.

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