Training and education: keys to successful fleets

by Bruce Richards

I have heard it said that people do not want to be referred to as ‘human resources,’ and that there are those that find the term offensive.

I think that the term is nothing more than a moniker that doesn’t imply anything more than that the subject matter is people. The term is not offensive and doesn’t imply anything derogatory.

And since people really are the most important asset in almost every business, it makes sense to have a collective noun to identify that asset, so why not ‘human resources’?

But the actual term used to identify personnel is not the important issue. More important is how companies deal with their personnel when it comes to training and ongoing education.

I still find it curious that when considering their employees as a whole, some companies still compartmentalize their approach to training and education. Companies that consider themselves progressive on many fronts encourage, and in many cases pay for, members of staff to continue their education and training in fields associated with their job requirements.

Those companies clearly understand the value of keeping at least some of their employees current with changing job requirements and the benefits of expanding their horizons through continuing education.

When dealing with staff, we seldom hear the concern that once that education is paid for, the individual will leave the company for a better opportunity.

But within some companies the compartmentalizing definitely includes drivers. For some reason, there are employers that are reluctant to offer training and upgrading opportunities to their drivers for fear of having them move on to a competitor, taking all that newly acquired knowledge with them.

These same companies don’t hesitate to invest in new technology or new equipment in the never-ending search for business efficiencies. They wouldn’t consider letting their operating equipment grow outdated and stale – including that of their truck fleet – but investing in continuous training of their drivers is at best an afterthought.

Understand that there are many companies that consider driver training to be an important and integral part of their fleet operations – we know of many within the PMTC membership – and they need to be applauded for their efforts. In the last edition of Truck News I wrote about Praxair Canada, one of those forward thinking companies.

But for many drivers, company-sponsored training doesn’t go beyond the day-to-day procedures and documentation required in the operation. Heaven forbid that the paperwork isn’t filled out correctly!

Some of the reluctance to offer ongoing training to drivers stems from that irrational fear that I mentioned above; that the individuals will move on to another employer who will ultimately benefit from the training. Some of the reluctance is still rooted in the outdated mindset that you can ‘always get another driver.’

Sometimes, for relatively short periods of time such as recessions, funding for training needs to be diverted to other business issues, and that is understandable. But if the practices of a company include continuous education/training of its employees, those employees will surely understand the need for temporary reassignment of those training dollars.

There is no valid argument to offset the positive results of ongoing training. Yes, people do change employers, but they do that for any number of reasons. Why, some of those in management who control training dollars even change employers themselves during their careers.

Any company with a culture of training and good employee relations will significantly reduce its turnover in all positions. And turnover is expensive.

So if you work for one of those companies that is experiencing a high level of driver dissatisfaction and turnover you might consider adopting a new approach to a group that can make significant contributions to your efficiency and save you money in the process – your drivers.

One of the programs offered by the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council called Human Resource Essentials can certainly help. This interactive program, offered in a single three-hour seminar, is specifically designed for non-HR people charged with driver recruitment and retention.

Participants also take away a copy of the CTHRC’s newest product Your Guide to Human Resources: Practical Tips and Tools for the Trucking Industry.

Written for the trucking industry by knowledgeable industry insiders, the guide is filled with helpful tips, tools, checklists and more, to assist with hiring the right drivers, the first time, and keeping them longer. It is a valuable resource.

Admittedly, participating in a seminar such as this one is only one step toward better training of the entire driver corps.

It should open some eyes within the management group and demonstrate the value of training for everyone – after all, if it provides middle management with the tools to do a better job with the fleet, why not expand the benefits by extending training opportunities to the drivers?

There is a world of opportunity to improve the return on human resources we call drivers, but it requires the mindset to want to do it.

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.