Expect real returns on your targeted training investments

by Ralph Haigh

Those who crunch numbers for a living might see training as a “cost” of doing business.

There is no question that the price of the related programs can be measured in terms like trainer salaries, training material, and the fuel used for an in-cab demonstration. Every one of these figures can find a home in the cells of an accountant’s spreadsheet.

But targeted training programs would more accurately be described as an investment that can deliver real, measurable financial returns.

Fleet managers are often surprised by the size of the financial results that emerge once they begin to track all of the related figures. Consider the savings that can be realized by showing drivers how to properly adjust vehicle mirrors.

The true cost of repairs to broken clearance lights and damaged barn doors may be hiding within larger maintenance budgets until they are tracked to measure the value of the training. And bigger financial savings may come in the form of a drop in the number of side-swiping collisions.

Even training for those who clean the floor of a service bay can help to reduce the workers’ compensation costs that are linked to slips and falls.

The financial returns do not end there. These investments play a role in reducing recruiting and retention costs, especially when the training is seen as part of a long-term strategy rather than an example of short-term discipline. Each session in a classroom can help a driver to see that they are worthy of an investment and important to the future of the company. And let’s face it -everyone enjoys doing a job when they are good at it.

They are all factors that can play an important role when someone is trying to decide whether or not to jump from one employer to the next.

Of course, driver shortages may not be at the top of mind in the middle of a struggling economy, but there is no overlooking the fact that there is a price to pay whenever a fleet needs to replace an employee.

According to the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council (CTHRC) it can cost between $6,000 and $14,000 to find, train and replace an experienced driver.

Imagine the amount of training that can be delivered for this amount of money. In addition to this, fleets with access to a skilled workforce will also be in the best position to act on the opportunities that begin to emerge in a recovering economy.

It can simply make more financial sense to enhance the skills of an existing driver than to hire a new one.

Meanwhile, the results can also be maximized by targeting the training to match the specific needs of individual employees, and their needs can be identified a number of ways.

Carrier profiles and driver abstracts will offer information about the nature of infractions that occur on the road, and a truck’s electronic control module (ECM) can help to spot drivers who are more aggressive with a throttle than they should be.

General feedback from customers and fellow employees alike will help to identify those who show the attitudes that deliver a safer driving experience. This is all information that can be tracked as accurately as any dollar figure.

Another step to enhance any returns will come with the choice of skilled trainers who can deliver any lessons as effectively as possible.

While fleets often focus on a potential trainer’s experience behind the wheel and the number of years without a collision, there are also training-related needs to consider.

The most effective people in these roles tend to demonstrate strong communication skills and have a positive attitude that influences their trainees.

Luckily, these are skills that can be taught as surely as any defensive driving course.

The CTHRC recently introduced professional development programs for those who coach newly-trained drivers when they are first hired, mentor experienced drivers when they first join a fleet, or assess newly-trained and newly-hired drivers alike.

Together, they can help these professionals personalize coaching approaches, reinforce skills over the road, and properly assess skills to identify training needs.

They are all steps that can contribute to a healthy business strategy.

And when the targeted training initiatives are matched to financial objectives -and shared with everyone from management offices to a fleet yard -they will make a tangible difference in a company’s financial future.

These are the types of investments that will pay dividends for years to come.

-This month’s expert is Ralph Haigh, safety and signature services account manager. Ralph has served the trucking industry for over 30 years and has held positions ranging from driver, driver trainer to risk manager. Markel Safety and Training Services, a division of Markel Insurance Company, offers specialized courses, seminars and consulting to fleet owners, safety managers, trainers and drivers. Markel is the country’s largest trucking insurer providing more than 50 years of continuous service to the transportation industry. Send questions, feedback and comments about this column to info@markel.ca.To read about more industry hot topics, visit Markel’s web-site at www.markel.caand click on the Articles & Essays section.

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