If it is not documented, it was not done

By Matthew A. Daecher

Most safety personnel and owners would say they provide driver training to ensure their drivers are capable of operating their vehicles. After all, buses are expensive to buy and expensive to repair, and a bus out of service for any reason is even more costly when the monthly payment comes due.

Risk managers say another reason to provide training is to protect the interest of the company in the event of lawsuits resulting from collisions. In my travels I see everything from companies that have no training program to companies whose policies cover all the training bases competently.

When companies hire drivers they generally takes one of two routes. They either conduct a regimented driver training program or they hire experienced drivers trusting they have already received the proper training to operate a bus similar to their own. Smaller companies typically go the latter route since they have minimal resources and often no dedicated safety personnel.

Larger companies will generally provide some type of training. In many cases they structure the program to orient the new driver to company policy, procedure and culture, as well as ensure all drivers are always capable of operating the vehicles. While relying on experience may be sufficient in some instances, many companies find that some degree of structured training is necessary to ensure new drivers operate in manners consistent with company policy and expectations.

Regardless which route the company chooses, it must take the initiative to properly document any and all training or certification. Whether it is a detailed multi-stage training program or a single comprehensive road test, documentation is essential to effective risk management.

Documented training may mean something different to different people, but the old saying If it is not documented, it was not done holds true nonetheless. It is important operators understand the meaning behind the adage.

Detailed documentation leaves a written record of the training the trainee received on specific subjects at a specific time. Incomplete or incorrect documentation can lead to questions down the road that can all too quickly leave a company and its executives in an uncomfortable position.

The only way to avoid the potentially uncomfortable position companies can find themselves in is by making training documentation as thorough as possible. Here are some key points for more reliable training documentation.

It must include the name of the trainee and the trainer, the date the instruction took place and all the topics covered in the training with the trainee signing off on the session.

The inclusion of these items leaves little question as to what training occurred when and who received the instruction. Such thorough and concise documentation eliminates the potential scenarios in which the existence of training or effective communication comes into question.

I should stress the documentation must include such detail as the titles of any video materials used in the session, as well as any specific company policies and procedures. In short, the more detailed the records the better off a company will  be if ever asked for its training records.

Here is one more tip. Well-developed standardized methods help a company ensure consistent and uniform training documentation regardless of who conducts the training.

While the focus of most training is on new hires, companies must not neglect additional training as needed throughout a driver’s tenure with the company. They also must document all periodic training and safety meetings as well as any necessary remedial training following preventable collisions or any observed actions deemed unsafe as proof of such training.

Such post-hire training helps keep everyone in the company focused on safety and reinforces the company commitment to maintaining the safest possible operations.

The provision and documentation of company training could easily spell the difference in a nasty lawsuit arising from a serious incident involving a company vehicle. Providing a training paper trail of accurately detailed documentation can generally deflate the validity of negligent entrustment claims, and help minimize liability arising from any incident. This is much preferred over guessing when the company provided training for whom in instances that such questions arise.

Matthew A. Daecher is president and CEO of Daecher Consulting Group, Inc., Camp Hills, PA.