May 4, 2021
Industry Advisor, Workplace Support Services, AMTA
In the trucking industry, there is a requirement in the province of Alberta for trucking and bus companies to provide commercial drivers with training upon hiring (AR314/2002, the Commercial Vehicle Certificate and Insurance Regulation). Companies can consult Commercial Vehicle Safety Compliance in Alberta (also known as the AB Education Manual), which is a publication by the Government of Alberta which is freely available online through their website.
In the Commercial Vehicle Safety Compliance in Alberta manual it is stated that carriers need to train drivers in the following subjects:
-Hours of service
-Rules of the road
-Use of safety equipment
-Weights and dimensions
-Vehicle maintenance and trip inspections
-Transportation of dangerous goods (if applicable)
Trucking companies operating in the USA also have training requirements for their drivers (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations; General Part 390 Subpart A). The specific training program a carrier chooses for their drivers will depend on the minimum legal requirements that apply to their operations, and also on the specific nature of the operation. Whatever program is selected, though, the outcome needs to be workers who are competent.
The Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Act defines a competent worker as someone who is “adequately qualified, suitably trained and with sufficient experience to safely perform work without supervision or with only a minimal degree of supervision” (SA 2017 cO-2.1 1(d)). This is a wonderful definition because it provides employers with a way to decide if they consider an individual competent to perform their duties. When it comes to driver training, this definition can be used in conjunction with a job description and ongoing worker evaluations to decide if a training program is rigorous enough to create competent drivers.
Now, what about ongoing training?
I applaud all carriers that provide adequate training to their new hires. However, employers should also continue to train drivers on an ongoing basis: both to reinforce the material presented to them from hiring, and also to update them on changes to regulations and operations. A documented ongoing training program is an important part of a carrier’s due diligence as well as a big part in keeping their drivers competent.
However, ongoing training programs may be more challenging for many carriers to create and implement than a training program for new hires. When a driver is hired, they are often easily available – physically or remotely – for all tasks related to onboarding. Once they are out on the road, though, it can be harder to assemble drivers for training events. Furthermore, a company’s pay structure may not fairly compensate drivers for safety training.
In-person or remote-but-synchronous training is one of the best ways to train people. In such a setting, people match the pace of the instructor and are able to ask questions. It is also easier to have the focus of workers if they are participating in a training event where the instructor is guiding them through the material.
However, not all training needs to be done this way. There are many different ways to offer ongoing driver training that is manageable while individuals are scattered throughout different locations performing their duties, and such training can still be documented.
Here are some examples of formats ongoing training can take:
-Micro-Learn videos (the AMTA has a great and continually-growing library of Micro-Learn videos that each focus on a safety topic related to the transportation industry)
-Safety newsletters and emails
-Detailed handouts on certain topics
-Online safety training where drivers can log into a portal so their progress can be tracked
So now that a few ongoing training formats have been shared, how can a carrier decide on topics for training?
For starters, I suggest carriers take the material they cover during orientation and break it into small modules that can be spread out throughout the year as part of the ongoing training program. Just because drivers saw the material upon hiring does not mean a refresher is without value.
If a carrier can develop a way to systematically send out the contents of the new driver orientation throughout the year in manageable chunks, drivers will be constantly reminded of important regulations, policies, and procedures without large impacts to operations. Using the orientation as the foundation for the ongoing training program has the added bonus of not requiring the creation of new content (this is a major time saver).
Next, I suggest carriers take a look at freely-available information that can be shared with their fleet. The AMTA has the aforementioned micro-learn videos. Non-profit organisations like the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) put out regular media that can be shared within a fleet.
The key is consistency and finding a way to document training. There is no single solution for all companies, but with a little research an easily-managed program can be created to provide drivers with regular safety training without overwhelming them with information.
To edit a common health expression for the transportation industry, carriers and drivers should review a violation a day to keep CVSA and the Sheriffs away.