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Eliminating distractions for new drivers

July 15, 2022
Every new commercial driver must pass basic standards for safety as they move into an unfamiliar environment, but making new employees familiar with equipment and policy will ensure they are not distracted by the changes.

Every fleet manager is looking for new truck drivers. And not just new drivers–safe new truck drivers. Every fleet manager and their company's human resources department should go through the same steps:

  • Require an employment application and verify prior employment history.
  • Check the motor vehicle record (MVR) of the applicant. With experienced truck drivers, consult the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Pre-Employment Screening Program for five years of crash and three years of inspection history.
  • Require a pre-employment drug and alcohol test. With experienced truck drivers, also consult FMCSA's Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse for past violations.
  • Require a medical examiner's certificate from an examiner listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.
  • Verify the applicant's commercial driver's license (CDL) and any endorsements. With recent CDL recipients, verify that the CDL training was conducted by an entity listed on the FMCSA Training Provider Registry.
  • Conduct your own road test.

If everything checks out, great! You may now have a qualified new truck driver, but you may not yet have one who operates safely.

Safety is more than knowing how to drive a truck and follow the rules. Safety demands focus and attention. That means eliminating the distractions every new employee faces so that your new truck driver can keep their eyes on the road and mind on the task at hand.

See also: Safety groups question merits of driver apprenticeship program

Here's the challenge. Trucking serves every aspect of our economy and every place in the country. Not surprisingly, no two truck operations are exactly alike. They have different equipment, different customers, different roads, and different procedures–differences that can distract the new truck driver. Beyond simply qualifying new truck drivers, fleet managers must familiarize them with the company, its equipment, and its procedures.

And that is where some fleets fall short. Managers often hand new employees reams of paper with details on pay, benefits, medical coverage, company policies, and personal time off in exhausting detail. Fine and completely appropriate.

But people don't remember paperwork, they remember other people. They don't remember where employee parking is, they remember actually driving there and parking. They don't remember the fleet's electronic logging device (ELD) model, they remember practicing on one in the yard before they hit the road. They don't remember where to eat in town, they do remember the fellow driver who answered their questions.

That's why the most successful fleet managers devote time at the front end of new truck drivers' employment to answer questions personally. Set them up with a senior driver as a resource. Show them the online driver forum where they can ask questions from the road. And let them try out company equipment and technology at the terminal before they use it in operation.

And those successful fleet managers know that often the new truck driver is not the only one distracted by the differences. A spouse and other family members may need to be familiarized with the new job and new location.

Every new job has differences. In trucking, a new driver may need to make a whole trailer-full of adjustments, no matter how qualified or experienced that driver may be. Those differences can become distractions. A safe truck driver is an undistracted truck driver. Eliminating distractions for new truck drivers is critical for fleet safety. And fleet manager attention at the front end may mean that new truck drivers will stick around for the long haul.

Steve Vaughn is vice president of field operations at PrePass Safety Alliance, the provider of PrePass weigh station bypass and toll-payment and management services. Vaughn served nearly three decades with the California Highway Patrol and is a past president of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

About the Author

Steve Vaughn | Senior Vice President of Field Operations

Steve Vaughn is senior vice president of field operations at PrePass Safety Alliance, the provider of PrePass weigh station bypass and electronic toll-payment and management services. Vaughn served nearly three decades with the California Highway Patrol and is a past president of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

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