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Eye on training

Oct. 13, 2014

Company: Crowder College, Transportation Training department, Neosho, MO

Operation: A mixed fleet of 10 late-model Class 8 tractors with trailers used to teach professional truck driving and diesel technology to entry-level students


Crowder College is a two-year community college offering a wide range of degrees and certifications, including professional driver training. The school is proud of its program for drivers.

Curriculum coordinator for transportation training James (Brandon) Wooden works tirelessly to improve the level of training the school offers—and the professionalism and skill of the drivers it graduates.

“Many schools regard a student driver as ‘trained’ when they can maneuver a commercial motor vehicle, backing and driving, within a prescribed number of errors. We wonder if this considers all aspects of training, such as alignment with the ability to recognize potential problems and to think through the process of managing a CMV safely in daily operations. To measure the way a student aligns to the process of learning takes more than end result numbers. It takes looking into the process to see how effective we are at motivating positive actions at pivotal moments in the training process.”

About a year ago, Wooden was presented with an opportunity to add DriveCam in-cab video units from Lytx to the tractors in the college’s fleet. He jumped at the chance.


“When I heard what Lytx had to offer, I said ‘Wow!’” Wooden recalls. “This is the perfect thing to allow us to see if we can help students spot their own errors. Sports coaches use video all the time to help athletes see where to improve their performance.”  Wooden says it is the first thing he does when coaching someone new.

The “wow” factor still hasn’t worn off for Wooden. Today, driver coaches use the video in targeted ways to reinforce specific learning objectives, he explains.  They do this by planning routes that provide critical teaching moments, which are captured on video when the student is behind the wheel and the coach is in the passenger seat. Then the student and coach review the video together.  The video allows the student to see exactly what they did wrong and what they did right.

“We can say to new drivers, ‘See where your trainer is looking right now—see what his eyes are on. Where are you looking? How far ahead?’” says Wooden. “It helps them to see as a professional driver sees. It helps them to become aware of what I call the ‘cliff edge,’ the point at which a behavior could become dangerous, the point at which an error is about to occur.

“This is not used as a punitive tool,” he stresses, “but as a way to give new drivers an opportunity to see where they can change their actions for better results. The video tool encourages drivers to take ownership of their professional development just as athletes feel they alone are responsible for improving their performance. That sense of ownership keeps the student drivers motivated to continually improve. We hope that desire for improvement won’t ever leave them.”

Like his students, Wooden says the department is working to keep improving its own performance. “It is a building process,” he says. “We have been rewriting our curriculum to incorporate this new technology. The next opportunity is to train fleet trainers on how to use this technology to deliver better training themselves.”

Wooden says he has another “pet project”: conducting research on the best training methods for entry-level drivers. 

“We really want adult learners to relate to our training, he notes. Training adults is not at all the same as training younger students. We want to help them understand and appreciate what it means to be a true professional in this industry.” 

About the Author

Wendy Leavitt

Wendy Leavitt joined Fleet Owner in 1998 after serving as editor-in-chief of Trucking Technology magazine for four years.

She began her career in the trucking industry at Kenworth Truck Company in Kirkland, WA where she spent 16 years—the first five years as safety and compliance manager in the engineering department and more than a decade as the company’s manager of advertising and public relations. She has also worked as a book editor, guided authors through the self-publishing process and operated her own marketing and public relations business.

Wendy has a Masters Degree in English and Art History from Western Washington University, where, as a graduate student, she also taught writing.  

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