I wrote recently that training drivers on fuel-efficient driving techniques will soon be unnecessary and obsolete, as advanced technologies bring parity to the driving force. I still believe that, but it will be some time before the industry fully transitions to advanced powertrains that can eliminate the ability of a driver to operate the vehicle inefficiently and so for now, driver training remains a worthwhile and important endeavor.

Addressing this topic a the PIT Conference was a panel, chaired by trucking journalist Jim Park, who thinking back on his own 20-year driving career could not recall being offered any form of ongoing training. He used a clever analogy of a pro sports franchise to illustrate the importance of training. Jim pointed out that an NHL team – or any other pro sports organization – has a farm team, where the skills of up-and-comers are honed in an effort to boost them to the next level.

It was a really good point and I’ll take it one step further and add that even when those players make it to the highest level, their training continues. NHL teams have regular practices and everyone is expected to participate. Sidney Crosby, despite being the best player in the world, is out there with his teammates practicing his stickhandling and picking the corners with laser wrist shots, all in an ongoing quest to be the best at his craft.

Yet to Jim’s point, professional drivers receive little help in taking the next step in their career from becoming good drivers, to great drivers, and even less support in maintaining and further developing their skills once they’ve become among the best at their craft.

When training does occur, too often it’s a one-off, with little or no follow-up support. And that, according PIT researcher Benoit Vincent, simply doesn’t work. He shared the findings of a PIT study that provided training on fuel-efficient driving techniques to nearly 100 drivers. Some of those drivers received ongoing feedback once the training was completed while others were left to their own devices.

The drivers who did not receive ongoing feedback reverted to their old habits within two months, while those who did receive feedback were able to show sustained improvements to their driving behaviours. You can read more about this study here.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • Maybe you can offer an article at some point about on-road patrols. I have found them quite successful in reminding drivers we expect them to continually follow the basic rules we were all taught. It also provided me with an opportunity to connect with drivers on-the-road and offer praise, if they were doing things correctly. Driver’s enjoy the freedom of the road, but this often breeds complacency. Remember the old saying: When the Cat’s Away, the Mice Do Play. Train drivers correctly, do refresher training and monitor their behaviour, and the roads become safer for everyone.