What does it take to become a Smith System trainer? Driver trainers come from all industries, backgrounds, and walks of life. Just ask Tracy Richard, a quality control technician for Aggregate Industries who has been training drivers since 2015.
Tracy joined Aggregate Industries as a construction laborer in 2010. She was in her early thirties and saw the move as an opportunity to build an emotionally, physically, and financially rewarding career. When the company approached Tracy to take a driving class, to her surprise, she was also offered the chance to become a certified Smith System Driver Trainer.
“They chose me to become a trainer because they thought I’d be good at presenting the material to my peers,” Tracy said. “At the time, I was facilitating trucking because I had good relationships with the drivers. They saw how I was on the phone dealing with truck drivers and decided to give me a go as a Smith trainer.”
Embracing New Opportunities
In the beginning, Tracy was nervous. Driver training went far beyond the typical parameters of her job. But she was excited to embrace this new opportunity and expand her skills.
“I could have resisted and said this isn’t in my job description, but I was flattered that they saw something in me,” she said.
Despite her reservations, she placed her confidence in the judgment of her boss and embraced the journey — something she encourages others to do, too.
“If someone at your company is asking you to be a trainer, it’s because they see something in you that you’re not seeing in yourself,” she added. “Just give it a chance. I’m always nervous when I start training each year, but I can feel myself getting better each day. When you truly stand behind the material, you can teach it confidently.”
Her openness to learning new things has been a large part of Tracy’s career journey. Even when she feels inexperienced in a particular area, she draws confidence from the knowledge that if she puts her mind to something, she will do a good job.
“It’s not something I ever expected I would be doing,” she said. “Being open to learning new things has been a game-changer for me.”
Another surprise, Tracy said, is how good she became at teaching The Smith5Keys® to drivers. Being a trainer allows her to get to know people in other departments and apply her communication skills in new ways. She is passionate about seeing the drivers’ progress and being part of an ecosystem of learning within her organization.
“I love seeing the improvement in people from the beginning to the end of the day and how the drivers learn from their peers,” she said. “The Smith System training program is designed to learn as a group, so if we all give constructive feedback to one driver, everyone learns.”
Tracy faced different challenges throughout her life, including adjusting to working nights early in her career. But rather than see challenges as obstacles, she prefers to treat them as opportunities to learn and grow. Her advice?
“Tackle challenges one task at a time, and don’t be afraid to ask for help,” she said. “You’re usually not unique in your challenges. There is always someone you can turn to. I always tell people if I don’t have the answer, I’ll get the answer.”
Seeing Long-Lasting Change
When it comes to feedback on Smith System training, Tracy says it’s always overwhelmingly positive. She’s witnessed long-lasting changes in driver behavior — including her own.
“I was a terrible driver before Smith System. I was a bad tailgater. I barely checked my mirrors,” she said. “Since Smith System training, I’ve avoided a lot of accidents. I was driving with my wife one day, and if I hadn’t been doing what I was taught, we would have ended up in the hospital. But I left myself an out, and it made a huge difference.”
Tracy’s story isn’t uncommon. She hears similar anecdotes from her students all the time.
“After going through Smith System training, they’re less stressed when driving,” she said. “I try to keep the mood light but keep in mind that it’s still serious stuff. I’m a better driver because of Smith System — because I went through the same training that I get to teach today.”
While the overall training material is the same, Tracy tailors her class material to fit each group she works with using Smith System’s Safety Shorts.
“When I’m training the salespeople, I’ll focus on distracted driving, and if I’m training night shift drivers, I’ll make sure to emphasize drowsy driving,” she said. “You have to know your audience as a trainer. You have to know what’s going to work best for them.”
She reassures her students that she’s not there to fail them but to help them improve their driving. This creates a relaxed atmosphere conducive to learning. And because Tracy has been through the training herself, she shares real-world examples of its impact on her life.
A Passion for Training Drivers
Tracy says that Smith System has taught her to remain level-headed, composed, and focused behind the wheel and in the classroom. Being a driver trainer has evolved from an interest into a true passion for her — and it continues to help her grow as a driver, professional, and person.
“If people are on the fence about trying Smith, they should give it a shot,” she said. “Some of us have dangerous jobs, like myself, so we know safety is important. But people often see driving as a task. They don’t take it as seriously as they should. Remember, you’re basically driving a guided missile when you’re on the road.”
During her time as a driver trainer at Aggregate Industries, Tracy has witnessed Smith System’s impact on the company.
“Using Smith has improved how we operate as a company when it comes to driving,” she said. “If drivers have issues, we re-address them and help get them back in line. I stand behind Smith System 100%, and I’m glad we continue to use it.”
Are you interested in becoming a Smith System driving instructor? We’re hiring — apply online today.