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Comparing Behind-the-Wheel Training and E-Learning

July 18, 2023

behind the wheelDriver safety is critical to the overall success of your business. When drivers are involved in on-the-job crashes, it’s the employer who ultimately pays the price. Establishing a safe driving culture is the first step to improving driver performance and efficiency, as well as protecting the company against lawsuits and liabilities down the road.

An important element of any safety culture is a strong driver safety program. But with so many training platforms and approaches in the market today, choosing the right fit for your fleet can be challenging.

While online courses are convenient and allow students to learn at their own pace, they are no replacement for classroom instruction combined with behind-the-wheel training with an experienced instructor.

What is the most important thing to look for in a driver training program? What are some of the benefits of behind-the-wheel training? Which training programs are the most effective for commercial fleets? And when is E-learning appropriate? Here’s what you need to know to get started:

What Makes Behind-the-Wheel Training So Effective?

Online training courses allow drivers to learn on their own time and at their own pace. E-Learning is a convenient and often less expensive training option and an excellent way to reinforce a specific training methodology.

However, on its own, online training isn’t enough to actually change long-term driver behavior. To really improve a driver’s skills and habits, nothing replaces classroom instruction coupled with behind-the-wheel training.

Think about it: There’s a reason that almost all 50 states and the District of Columbia require a combination of classroom instruction and either behind-the-wheel training or dozens of hours of supervised driving with a parent or guardian before an individual can receive a driver’s license.

Not only does behind-the-wheel instruction prepare new drivers to pass their driving tests, but it also provides them with real-world driving experience so that they are safer on the roads and know what to expect in different scenarios.

For commercial drivers, the risks are even higher.

What makes behind-the-wheel training so effective for fleets?

Behind-the-wheel training with an instructor is far more effective than online training or parking lot simulations alone because drivers are learning what to do in real-world scenarios.

They are in real-life driving conditions and instructors are able to observe and correct driving habits and behavior in real time.

Behind-the-wheel training combines the physical realities of traffic and dynamic uncertainty with the constant reinforcement of an instructor or certified trainer who can identify strengths and weaknesses and provide practical advice.

This type of instruction also allows drivers to learn in the traffic and road conditions they deal with every day.

This unique behind-the-wheel approach, combined with classroom instruction, is the most effective way to improve individual driver behavior and create safer long-term driving habits.

Online training can then be effectively used to reinforce the techniques that were learned in class and behind the wheel.

Driver Training That Really Works

Most motor vehicle crashes are preventable. The right driver training program can equip drivers with the skills they need to prevent crashes, protect the company from liability, and most importantly, save lives.

Better-trained drivers also react better in traffic, which means fewer aggressive stops and starts and less wear and tear on company vehicles as a result.

Training should be simple, straightforward, and based on concepts that are easy to apply and remember, such as how to look ahead and assess a situation, how to maintain a safe distance between vehicles, and how to position yourself in traffic so that you can safely react when conditions change.

When choosing a driver training platform as part of building a safety culture within your company, choose instructors who have extensive experience working with fleets and the unique set of challenges faced by commercial drivers.

In general, experienced commercial drivers — or most drivers, for that matter — believe that they already know how to drive safely and don't need additional training. They may even feel that they are being punished by having to attend driver training.

In order to make an impression, driving instructors have to be able to prove that they know what they are doing, and even more importantly, that what they are teaching really works. 

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