The quality and success of your driver safety training program significantly depends on the knowledge and delivery technique of your driving trainers. Selecting the right trainer candidates is critically important.
If your company is large enough to have its own driver trainers on staff, what are some of the qualities to look for when selecting these driving trainers?
You can’t just cherry pick your best drivers — they won’t necessarily make the best trainers. When you are trying to identify the best candidates to deliver driving training to your fleet, there are many factors to consider.
First and foremost, driving trainers should be affable and comfortable speaking in front of groups. Generally, most people believe very strongly in their own driving skills and abilities and don’t think they need driver training. In some cases, drivers may even feel a little insulted that they are being asked to attend training.
It’s ultimately up to your driving trainers to win them over.
“If you get defensive when someone pushes back, it stalls the learning process,” says Walter Cole, Smith System’s VP of training. “You have to be able to handle criticism and debate in a positive way.”
Teaching Training that Really Works
Driving trainers also have to be able to prove that what they are teaching really works. Smith System courses combine classroom training with behind-the-wheel instruction. On-road training is unique because drivers learn from real-world conditions and scenarios, and instructors can see and correct their driving habits in real time.
Training is based on simple, straightforward concepts that are easy to understand, remember and apply. Instructors narrate drives, demonstrating techniques to help drivers more safely navigate through traffic and avoid the most common types of crashes.
The behind-the-wheel training combines the physical realities of traffic, weather and dynamic uncertainty with the constant reinforcement of a certified instructor, who can quickly identify drivers’ strengths and weaknesses and provide practical help.
“Instructors go out on the road and prove to drivers that what they are teaching really works,” says Cole. “The goal of the training is to change driver behavior, and to sell that belief, you have to be able to prove that it works.”
Qualifications of a Good Driving Trainer
Trainers should also have the ability to talk to and relate to all kinds of different people. Depending on your fleet, you may have a wide range of drivers with varying positions at the company, driving experience and personality types — and everyone responds to training differently.
If you ask most people what they do for a living, unless they are a commercial truck driver, they rarely say ‘I’m a driver,’ even though they drive as part of their job. And truck drivers are notoriously independent. The qualities that make a good commercial truck driver are self-motivation and independence. They are used to working alone.
A good driver trainer with the right personality can effectively relate to everyone in a training group, whether they are commercial truck drivers or executives, and command respect from the entire room.
Having the right personality and temperament are important qualifications of any good driving trainer, but trainers also have to have the time and motivation to learn what it takes to teach others how to become safer drivers. Ideal candidates should be flexible and enthusiastic and willing to work hard. They should be fair, open minded and empathic, have a good sense of humor and be proven motivators and leaders.
Once your trainers have learned to train your fleet’s drivers, like anything else, they will get better with practice.
In some cases, it might be more cost effective to hire an outside trainer who has already had a lot of practice and has mastered his or her training method and technique. By passing the training on to someone else who already has the necessary expertise, drivers can get what they need and your internal staff can get back to managing your fleet.
For the best results, when choosing a training company and driver methodology, make sure trainers have extensive experience specifically working with fleets and that they understand the unique challenges faced by commercial drivers. And remember: when implementing a formal driver safety training program at your company, don’t start with drivers who have had a crash in the last six months, Cole says. Instead, train your very best drivers first.
“You don’t want driver training to look like punishment,” says Cole. “You want training to be seen as something to assist drivers — not a punishment for bad behavior.”
Smith System’s DriverTrainer™ train-the-trainer program is an intensive certification course that provides your trainers with the skills they need to teach your fleet drivers how to reduce crashes and save lives.
To learn more about how to select the ideal driver trainers and build a world-class driver safety training program for your fleet, contact our team of experts today.