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Fleet pivots to feedback-based driver training

April 19, 2021
By listening to driver feedback and changing training tactics, Dart Transit has seen an improvement in CSA scores and a significant return on investment.

The average person’s attention span is around 8.5 seconds, according to Gina Anderson, who has been studying the science of learning for decades. While the average learner needs to see something repeated at least seven to eight times before it goes into their working memory, she said.

Anderson is the CEO and co-founder of Luma Brighter Learning, an instructional design and learning company focused on developing teaching strategies for the trucking and transportation industry. Anderson and her team at Luma have been working with trucking companies to help create training content for commercial drivers that is relevant to their day-to-day work.

“What we have found from feedback with drivers is, No. 1, there is some disconnect between how they’re being trained and their preferences for learning,” Anderson explained during an April 13 WorkHound webinar focused on driver training and retention. “Not only are drivers providing feedback where the training isn’t authentic or meaningful, the trainers are burnt out a lot of times. They are in a classroom—whether it’s a physical classroom or synchronous online classroom—and they are not sure if drivers are learning. The driver trainers are frustrated because they’re dealing with all this paperwork, it takes so much time, and there is just a lot going on that they have to manage.”

A big concern for trainers is whether drivers are actually retaining the content they receive during classroom-based orientation or annual training meetings.

“Drivers want better training on the service their companies provide, like how to handle a bill of lading, or technology like Qualcomm,” said Max Farrell, CEO and co-founder of WorkHound. “And they want it to be a proactive experience, not as a result of an infraction. We also see that drivers are very honest about how engaging their training programs are. From what we see in the driver feedback, the relationship between drivers and trainers can be strained.”

By working with Luma and gathering feedback from WorkHound, Dart Transit, which provides freight transportation, warehousing, and logistics services throughout the U.S. and Canada, has found that driver training must be interesting, but not cumbersome. Training should also be relevant and custom-designed for a particular fleet.

According to Gary Falldin, Dart vice president of safety and driver onboarding and security, the carrier’s goal is to make sure new drivers coming into orientation are getting started off on the right foot and that ongoing training remains interesting for their existing drivers.

“You want to make sure that everything is going well in orientation, that they understand the job, and that the training is not too cumbersome,” Falldin said. “We like to get them in and out of orientation very quickly, but then also make it meaningful so that when they do hit the road, they understand their job and they’re feeling comfortable. If they don’t, they’re going to feel frustrated, and that can build up over time throughout their career.”

Falldin added that forcing drivers to do something they absolutely hate will turn them off from training—and likely the company—altogether.

New training tactics and fleet ROI

Luma research shows that only 14% of drivers using their learning system prefer video, Anderson pointed out. Luma also found that drivers don't want training if it’s not authentic.

In its 2020 trends report, WorkHound found that only 22% of comments regarding new drivers, managers, or support staff were positive among drivers. WorkHound also found that proper training will help improve safety and alleviate burnout.

“From my perspective, the feedback we have gotten from WorkHound says loud and clear that the training we provide drivers makes them feel comfortable out on the road,” noted Rich Kallman, Dart Transit vice president of operations. “We’ve got multiple avenues to give drivers information, train them and then retrain them.”

Dart has been leveraging Luma’s offerings like eNuggets, which are short micro-lessons of content, about 6-8 minutes, that can be used to form a complete training course over time. Dart also makes sure that training modules are saved for drivers so they can brush up on any topic at any time.

Each week, Dart trainers and managers edit and update training material to ensure it stays relevant and up to date, Falldin added. The carrier also uses driver feedback to tweak training based on user preferences.

“Feedback has helped uncover the need for shorter training modules rather than long, drawn-out sessions and the appropriate learning preference for drivers,” WorkHound’s Farrell pointed out. “Ultimately, when we are doing these things, it is boosting driver trust, loyalty, and confidence.”

Prior to working with WorkHound and Luma, new driver orientation at Dart was a three-day in-person class, with full days of presentations and videos. Annual training for current drivers involved in-person meetings, as well as videos for remedial training exercises if a driver was involved in an accident.

“There was no feedback. We talked to them, we covered the points with them, we told them about the training and talked to them, but there was no feedback that they understood it,” Kallman emphasized. “That’s one of the big differences between where we were then and where we are now.”

Over the last year or so, Dart has since pivoted to one-day driver orientation and monthly driver training calls. The shift has been focused on what is relevant and unique to the company, with specific training for each department. 

“We are always trying to make training more impactful,” Falldin said, adding that eNuggets has helped keep drivers engaged with training exercises. “When we were looking [in 2019], we wanted to move to more of an online training to make it easier for the drivers and more impactful. We had that going, so when COVID hit, we were pretty much ready to go.”

Over the last year, Dart has since seen an improvement in its safety numbers, crash rate frequency, and Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scores. Dart’s worker’s compensation and OSHA frequency numbers also declined, which comes with an overall reduction in cost.

“By also getting drivers through orientation quicker and getting more money into their pockets, we are getting more revenue into Dart’s pockets as well, because every day they are not on the road, you’re losing revenue,” Falldin added. “So, the quicker they get out there, the better.”

When it comes to implementing new training tactics across multimedia platforms, Anderson relayed that fleets are sometimes hesitant because they believe it will eliminate the human connection for their drivers.

“It’s not about losing the human connection; you’re actually gaining because you’re able to individualize and reach out to get that feedback and act on it,” she said. “I think a lot of times people think about learner-to-content training, and that’s where you send an eNugget. But you can also do other types of interaction modes with training. We have carriers doing learner-to-learner training where drivers go in and learn from other drivers.

“You’re not getting rid of the instructor,” she added. “Gary’s and Rich’s roles at Dart are very important. They are able to connect with the drivers and provide clarification.”

Falldin emphasized that Dart has not lost that human connection at all, instead, he noted that drivers now feel more included in the company culture. 

About the Author

Cristina Commendatore

Cristina Commendatore was previously the Editor-in-chief of FleetOwner magazine. She reported on the transportation industry since 2015, covering topics such as business operational challenges, driver and technician shortages, truck safety, and new vehicle technologies. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut.

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