Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) launched the e-learning edition of its SmartDriver for Highway Trucking in 2011, and is now redeveloping the learning materials, with the support and guidance of numerous trucking industry stakeholders, to meet...
Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) launched the e-learning edition of its SmartDriver for Highway Trucking in 2011, and is now redeveloping the learning materials, with the support and guidance of numerous trucking industry stakeholders, to meet the needs of today’s professional truck drivers and trainers.
The SmartDriver for Highway Trucking (SDHT) program is designed to help achieve improved fuel efficiency – as a way to save money, reduce emissions, and improve safety.
While new technology is important in achieving those goals, driver skills are also crucial. The program’s main purpose is to help drivers get the most out of every drop of fuel, said NRCan.
“With fuel prices on the rise, we’ve been hearing loud and clear from industry for some time that it was important to update the program,” said Louis Brzozowski, Senior Manager, ecoENERGY Efficiency for Vehicles
It’s not so much that the content has changed considerably.
“Fuel efficient driving will always be fuel efficient driving. Our stakeholder consultations did reveal, however, that we consider more of a web-based e-learning style,” he said.
“We’ve been getting feedback from the trucking industry since 1998 and we always heard the complete program was comprehensive but lengthy. We worked on reducing it from an eight-hour program to between one and five hours depending on the needs of our target audience. We also were interested in connectivity for our stakeholders – do they have access to computers, and online access? It was clear that the industry is progressing relatively well with technology and with using things like laptops, LCD projectors and interactive whiteboards in the classroom,” said Brzozowski.
Web-based learning is also a little bit more appetizing than working through hard-copy training materials from a binder.
“The trucking industry supported the idea that we were embracing technology to allow for a better training delivery methodology,” said Brzozowski.
Stakeholders were more vocal about the accuracy and completeness of the course content as opposed to ancillary things like presentation design, delivery formats and quizzes or testing results.
“We started about three years ago on the definition and analysis work in terms of who actually uses SDHT, how they use it, is the course too long or too short, etc. We engaged stakeholders from all facets of industry. We’re well on our way in the development process, finalizing content, videos, and training prototypes,” said Brzozowski.
Three separate courses are being developed for use by Owner/Operators, Fleet Operators, and ‘Drivers-in-Training’ at Trucking Schools.
The redeveloped SDHT learning materials will be available in two delivery platforms: Self-directed e-learning (online & offline); and instructor-led, classroom learning platforms, to support multiple learning environments. This classroom version includes master lesson plans PowerPoint slides, presenter notes, and student handouts to support facilitators and trainers, and ensure consistent delivery of the learning material.
For the online learning component, an onscreen host has been built into the training, and actually speaks to the learners on the screen.
“It’s more than a glorified power point presentation – it’s a modern, interactive suite of learning tools with excellent graphics and video clips,” said Brzozowski.
The program is still built around four modules, the first of which covers ‘why fuel efficient driving matters.’
“The on-road transportation sector is growing and so is the demand for professional drivers. Whether the trainee is an aspiring, entry-level or experienced driver, we want to get the point across why fuel-efficient driving matters more than ever. Maybe they understand the benefits, but sometimes we find there are practices they have not considered,” stressed Brzozowski.
In Module 2, they look at factors that affect fuel efficiency, i.e. vehicle and load characteristics, routing, etc.
Module 3 gets down to the nitty-gritty of fuel-efficient driving practices: shifting, braking, starting the engine, road speeds.
“We teach them everything from pre-trip to the time they are shutting the vehicle off for the day,” he said.
Module 4 examines vehicle care and inspection, and things to do to ensure the vehicle is running at an optimum.
“It has a little bit better flow than our previous training. It’s more defined, specific and will really meet the needs of each segment of our target audience,” said Brzozowski
The inclusion of graphics, animation, and pop quizzes aims to help learners retain information.
At the end of all learning streams there’s a final summative test with 20 questions that touches on each module to ensure all participants have met the course’s learning objectives. Drivers who complete the course, and pass the test, will receive a Certificate of Achievement.
“We think the new SDHT e-Learning program has an effective methodological approach based on fundamental adult learning principles,” he said
There’s guidance about what drivers should expect from the program, how it can benefit them in terms of possibilities for employment and for improving the professionalism of the industry by demonstrating leadership through responsible use of our natural resources.
An On-Road Practicum will also be included to give drivers a chance to apply what they’ve learned with help from a professional driving instructor.
“In keeping with this theme, we are building in the On-Road Practicum so that professional drivers understand more clearly the benefits of using SmartDriving techniques to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. By measuring each driver’s performance before and after SDHT training, the On-Road Practicum provides immediate, measurable results to illustrate the effectiveness of SmartDriving techniques.”
“In our early work we found there was an immediate fuel savings benefit to the on-road element of our training. We regularly see that when truckers learn new driving techniques, their retention of this new or enhanced knowledge improves when they are able to apply it in a real-world setting. This can obviously have a positive affect on their fuel efficiency,” he said.
There are plans to work with various trucking schools to deliver the new SDHT training as part of a pilot and then follow-up with students, six months and one year down the road to see if the knowledge acquired is still being applied.
“There’s some information suggesting that some drivers do tend to go back to practice old habits. We’re hoping to address that through the pilot and implementation work and see how often refresher courses in fuel efficiency may be required,” said Brzozowski.
“We believe that the Smart Driver for Highway Trucking program is designed to promote energy efficiency as a cost effective, responsible way to reduce fuel costs and the environmental impact of fleet operations. I am confident the redevelopment of the program will continue to meet the needs and then some in terms of ease and deliverability,” said Brzozowski
NRCan’s primary focus is on its membership of over 8000 FleetSmart members. Throughout the training development and pilot process, NRCan will continue to track stakeholder feedback and user data to make additional course improvements as well as report on the potential for program support and success.
“What remains is some tweaking of the development software coding and its subsequent integration into NRCan’s learning management system, before final approvals and our anticipated launch of SDHT e-Learning in the Spring of 2014”, he concluded.