Every couple of months we get a request from someone for a course on avoiding fixed object collisions. Usually, we don’t even get that much detail in the request, it’s just “do you have a fixed object course?”
There are lots of “fixed object” courses available in the trucking industry — both classroom and online formats — so I’m not surprised people ask. What I find is that fixed object collisions are backing incidents, bad turns, or improper clearance, with the occasional rear-end incident popping up as well.
But are these the courses the fleet manager should be really asking for? What do these courses really solve? The reality is, if you need a course to teach you how to avoid crashing into something, that’s a problem.
Drivers should be trained to properly execute the specific maneuvers — backing, turning, etc. — regardless of whether other objects are present. If you train someone specifically to avoid a fixed object, are you saying it’s okay to do the turn poorly if there’s nothing in the way? Is it OK to do a terrible job backing as long as you don’t hit something? Of course not.
Offering a fixed objects course is a great example of treating the symptom rather than the disease.
The training focus should be on performing maneuvers properly. Your drivers should be offered courses on proper driving techniques for intersections, turns and curves. Similar story for backing.
Focusing on driver behavior rather than the specific outcome of one situation leads to much better performance and provides a more effective training experience as well. Imagine the poor driver who got placed into a “fixed objects” course and is trying to figure out why some of the content talks about turns, while others talk about parking lots or loading docks, or about low bridges — it’s all over the map and not connected in any way that’s meaningful. On the other hand, a course specifically about all the ins and outs of doing proper turns is going to make a lot more sense and the content will be retained more easily.
The moral of the story is to think about the behavior that needs to be changed rather than focusing too much on a specific outcome of that behavior. You’ll get better results.