Getting Back to Work: Reviewing Driver Training Resources & Evaluations

Presented as part of ABA’s BISC & BusMARC 2021 Virtual Safety & Maintenance Series


As part of their ongoing education series, the American Bus Association hosted this virtual meeting with presenter Matthew Daecher, transportation safety specialist and president of Daecher Consulting Group.

Daecher is a transportation safety specialist with over 19 years of experience in the transportation field. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from Kent State University with postgraduate accident reconstruction education from Northwestern University.

Throughout his career, he has been involved in multiple aspects of transportation safety, including risk analysis, risk management, and accident reconstruction. Daecher provides training to motor carriers and their employees, insurance companies, attorneys, and other groups in the areas of accident investigation, safety management, injury and accident prevention techniques and processes. Daecher has also developed safety training videos and presentations with commercial vehicle safety, fleet-based risk management, regulatory compliance, and workplace safety.

Daecher is an accredited reconstructionist by the ACTAR, the only reconstructionist accreditation body in the United States, and he has appeared as an expert witness in various state and federal courts. He has also been an instructor at the Bus and Motor Coach Academy and has been a board member for the National Association of Traffic, Accident, Reconstructionist and Investigators (NATARI). 

Within the presentation, Daecher addressed the current environment for passenger transportation operations, focusing on pandemic recovery and returning to work smartly. Daecher discussed training techniques and evaluations for returning drivers, including primary instructional methods, training type comparisons, resources, and best practices. 

“Obviously, it is a tough time in the industry and there’s a lot of things that are different than they have been in the past,” Daecher noted in his opening statements. “We are going to touch on a couple different areas, mainly what does the environment look like for some folks out there? We will talk a little bit about why training is important and why you want to consider doing it, along with evaluations and different types of each. And finally, some resources that people may not have thought about in a while.” 

Pandemic Recovery Environment

According to Daecher, the recovery environment is different for different operators. Most operators have had a small amount of business here and there, whether its sports related, election related, or a number of other different areas, but nothing near to what they are used to. 

“We still have a lot of drivers that haven’t driven in a while, we have some drivers who are not sure if they’re coming back, and we’re operating with significantly reduced staffs,” Daecher said. “And we have what I call optimized fleets, which really means a reduced fleet, so a fleet that doesn’t necessarily look like what it did eight or nine months ago and might not look like that any time soon.”

Returning to work smartly

Getting back to business, is exciting, but needs to be done smartly. According to Daecher, there are three primary reasons you should be thinking about evaluations and trainings. 

1. Confirm your drivers’ skills and fitness. 

2. Reacquaint them with key policies and procedures. 

3. Providing training, assessments and evaluations provides insulation for your company in claim scenarios.

Daecher also noted that there is a clear difference between evaluations and training. 

“You will probably do a mixture of both of them,” Daecher said. “At a very minimum, you will probably get into evaluations as you continue to bring drivers back into what we hope is an expanding business portfolio. Evaluations are typically used to assess behaviors or confirm behaviors. Can our drivers operate this coach or this cutaway safely – that is really you are really thinking about in an evaluation. You are going to observe them doing something that you expect them to do in a certain way, and hopefully they do it.”

Training, on the other hand, is usually used to communicate or teach those expectations that you might be evaluating during an evaluation. Through the training process, you are actually communicating and teaching drivers either how to perform a skill, whether it is a backing skill or turning skill, remedial training, or teaching them defensive driving skills such as following distances or safe lane changes. 

Evaluations

As drivers come back from a long absence, Daecher said operators will want to do pre-service evaluations focused specifically on the defensive driving concepts and those execution of critical maneuvers. 

“You want to focus on the ones that usually get us into trouble,” Daecher explained. “That means making sure they get out and look before they back up the coach, or they execute a turn properly so as to not leave too much room on the right side to allow another vehicle to come up alongside them.”

In-service evaluation is another way to evaluate drivers without specifically providing training. Traditionally that might have been feedback and surveys received from customers. Today we have many more tools through telematics, ELDs, GPS systems, and various types of technologies that allow for driver evaluation.

Training 

“When it comes to evaluation, you are looking to affirm behaviors that you think are learned,” Daecher said. “And in training, what you are trying to do is either instill or reinforce previously provided skills or expectations.”

According to Daecher, there are three primary instructional methods when it comes to training in the motorcoach industry: Instructor-led, computer-based and video.

Instructor-led has a person working with a driver or a group of drivers on a specific curriculum or specific topics, working one-on-one with them in a classroom and behind the wheel, discussing, demonstrating and observing.

Computer-based is one of the more popular methodologies in use today. Computer-based training has taken a big step forward, due to its availability in different formats. It is often accompanied by some type of automatic tracking and evaluation. 

Training type comparisons 

“Instructor-led it is the best interaction between your employee, trainee and whoever’s providing it for your staff at your company,” Daecher said. “And that interaction usually helps with retention of whatever you are teaching them. It allows that hands-on reinforcement and observation.”

Instructor-led is generally specific to a company’s operations, using the vehicles in your fleet, talking about your company’s specific policies. However, Daecher noted that the disadvantage of instructor-led model is the time and the resources involved – a primary concern as we come out of a pandemic and move toward more regular operations.

“Computer-based and video training are very similar,” Daecher explained. “They are both very efficient, because they do not require a lot of resources and thus operators and owners find them to be cost effective. But video training, which was once one of the most widely-used methodologies, is probably one of the least effective or least consistent in terms of engagement of the trainee.”

Training resources

Daecher offered a variety of different training resources including government agencies and other cost-free resources.

Insurance partners and providers can be a huge resource for many people. Most insurance companies either provide safety materials or have safety portals for drivers or trainees to use. 

“Just thinking about the two most significant insurers in this industry, I know that they both have a lot of materials that are available to their insured operators,” Daecher said. “That is a big resource which is often overlooked, but it is worthwhile.”

Industry associations offer different types of educational opportunities, whether it is continuing education or discounted purchase programs on third-party programs and training resources. 

Equipment manufacturers, otherwise known as OEMs, generally have exceptional training for component-specific items such as advanced driver assistance systems. In addition to the component-specific items, many OEMs offer more general training utilizing their learning management systems. 

Another training resource that often gets overlooked is footage captured by on-vehicle cameras. According to Daecher, it can be a great way to get the inside views of everything going on.

“Instead of just evaluating them in terms of whether or not a specific driver did something good or bad,” he said, “when you see something that is either exceptional or poor, you should think about using that outward footage in training programs and training presentations for drivers. It is certainly something that is already accessible to you. It is on your hard drive, and it can be turned around very easily into a teaching tool or tip to go along with other products that you may have.”

Daecher also suggested developing training materials within your own organization. 

“Developing in-house training products, which you do not have to worry about becoming outdated, can be cost-effective.”

“It does not end there,” Daecher added. “You should always be doing continuing evaluation. Make sure that you have resources allocated to do so as you ramp back up and get back to work.”

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