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How to get the most from online training

April 1, 2022
There’s more to online training than using it as a nominal add-on to traditional training methods. Here are three areas for fleets to consider.

Online training was once an option that carriers would not put much thought toward. Why? Like many of us, when you’re comfortable doing something the way you’ve always done it—in this case, delivering in-person training—it can be difficult to try something new.

Yet, today, online training has become widely adopted in the industry. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this shift towards online self-study, and with operations gradually returning to normal, carriers are embracing a combination of in-person and online training.

See also: Driver training: A necessary evil or opportunity?

Still, there’s more to online training than using it as a nominal add-on to traditional training methods.

Working in safety and risk management, you might be thinking, ‘If I’m taking the leap, exactly how much benefit can I expect from moving training to online?’ Let’s consider these three areas to get a more accurate and complete answer.

How can online training reduce your current training costs?

When trying to get a handle on what the “true” cost of a training program is, it’s important to include direct and indirect (soft) costs. However, figuring out the soft cost can be challenging.

The cost of a classroom training session is different for fleets that conduct weekend training, and those that book a half a day meeting within the existing weekday schedule. There are direct external costs like staffing, disruptions for drivers, not to mention employees having to organize and run these training sessions.

So, what would it cost the company if a safety manager spends a day or two putting together a session, and another half-day to deliver it, only to chase absent drivers at the end of it all?

See also: Online training and developing driver trust

When you factor in the average overhead cost for a company to employ a safety manager—roughly $500 per day (salary, benefits, office space, equipment, utilities, furniture, etc.)—and the time it takes for them to schedule, plan, and deliver the training, we’ve found that just a half-day in-person meeting or training session can cost upward of $4,000. And that doesn’t even include other costs associated with hosting the event, like paying drivers to attend, matching union rates, catering, or booking a venue. Not to mention opportunity costs, like loss of revenue that could’ve been generated had drivers been out on the road. The number of drivers attending the event also impacts the total cost, so you can see how quickly the final tab of one in-person session adds up.

By comparison, a year’s worth of online training for the entire company can be less than a single in-person training session. Not to mention it comes with the benefit of training remotely and conveniently, and at a pace that works best for each driver.

How can you tell it’s working?

Safety is historically tied to hardware and equipment-related solutions. Software—particularly training software—takes time to plan, use, monitor, and analyze the results. Identifying hot-button issues and tracking the impact of training over time will help you establish a benchmark.

But that’s only half the work. To get a full picture, there needs to be a clear understanding of what training can and can’t help with, be it in-person or online. For example, behavior-related safety problems, driver dissatisfaction, and fatigue can’t be resolved through training. Conversely, you can update drivers on areas they don’t know well enough or provide training on rules and regulations.

With the help of a centralized training system, you can capture data about what’s happening—who’s completing it on time, how long they’re spending to do it, what their scores are, what questions are answered incorrectly, and a mountain of actionable information. Put together, the system spells out where people excel and what areas they need more help with, reducing the costs of spending time and resources on researching, developing, and updating instructional content by yourself all the while making drivers feel safer and more valued in their jobs.

How else can it help you?

The phrase ‘time is money’ is true for any industry, but minutes saved make a monumental difference in trucking. Safety, risk management, and compliance people have a refined set of expertise that could be channeled towards doing high-value work such as working more directly with drivers in the yard or on the road. But time-consuming, low-value work can take focus and energy away from it.

Moreover, the high maintenance nature of traditional classroom training is disruptive for business, relegating its use to standard items such as orientation, regulatory change, or a significant new company policy. As a result, courses that could contribute to business growth and driver development don’t make the cut because there isn’t enough time.

Inadequately covering these topics means more time is lost reacting to problems that could have been avoided with proper, pre-emptive training, and even more time and money spent on additional training. On the flipside, a comprehensive online training program that’s tailored to your company’s needs results in a better informed, healthier, and risk-aware staff, reducing micromanagement from your daily to-dos while staying alert for potential problems.

Trucking is an extremely competitive industry, for both drivers and carriers. If a competitor has a more fleshed out, efficient, and cost-effective professional development program for drivers, and you rely solely on expensive classroom courses where drivers are not engaged, you’re likely to lose contracts and prospective drivers to the competitor.

It's exhausting to shake the status quo and contemplate doing something new, but you’re not going to reach that next level by continuing to do what you’ve been doing up till that moment. By integrating online training into your safety program, you free time and resources to explore new capabilities, functionalities, and opportunities that can make a significant difference in the overall effectiveness of your fleet’s safety and risk management program.

Mark Murrell is co-founder of CarriersEdge, a provider of online driver training for the trucking industry, and co-creator of Best Fleets to Drive For, an annual evaluation of the best workplaces in the North American trucking industry produced in partnership with the Truckload Carriers Association.

About the Author

Mark Murrell

Mark Murrell is president of CarriersEdge, a leading provider of online driver training for the trucking industry, and co-creator of Best Fleets to Drive For, an annual evaluation of the best workplaces in the North American trucking industry. 

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