We are officially in the post-Humboldt crash era, and now, more than ever, driver training is at the forefront of everyone’s mind in and outside of the industry.
To help bridge the gap between carrier and training schools, the Truck Training Schools Association of Ontario (TTSAO) brought the two together on an informative panel at its annual conference on Feb. 28.
Leanne Quail, Matt Richardson, Garth Pitzel, and Philip Fletcher
Panelists included: Philip Fletcher, operations manager at Commercial Heavy Equipment Training (CHET); Garth Pitzel, director of safety and driver development at Bison Transport; Matt Richardson, sales and operations manager at KRTS Transportation Specialists; and Leanne Quail, operations manager at Paul Quail Transport.
By and large the biggest takeaway from the panel is that both carriers and schools agreed that a strong partnership between school and fleet manager is critical.
“We use Crossroads in Barrie (as our training school partner) and the biggest advantage is that they know our business well,” Quail said. “They follow up. They do a lot of the leg work for me ahead of time. They know what drivers will work for my business, and give me good entry-level drivers.”
Pitzel agreed, adding that he appreciates schools that allows carriers access to students before graduation.
“It all comes down to forming partnerships with schools,” he said. “At Bison, we are preapproving the driver long before they start school. And having the ability to interact with drivers while in school, is helpful. We find we have a greater chance of them becoming long-term employees with us if we start interacting with them earlier on in the training process.”
Richardson said in order to get high-quality drivers carriers should be active in the schools.
“Most schools will allow you to be present,” he said. “If you want to hire our graduates, be there. Talk to the students. And make sure you’re speaking open and honestly. That means, if you’re long haul, don’t tell them they’ll be home every night.”
Fletcher said that good schools know the matching process between carrier and students.
“Every carrier has its own strengths,” he said. “Likewise every graduate is unique and has their own idiosyncrasies. It’s all about matching the right driver with the right carrier.”
When it comes to hard and soft skills, carriers agreed that schools should focus on the hard skills and leave the soft skills to the carriers.
“I prefer the drivers to have all the seat time they can get when they’re in school,” Quail said. “The schools only have a limited time frame to work with them, so I prefer for them to practice behind the wheel. I can teach them the soft skills on my own.”
When asked if schools or carriers should use skill or time-based training, Bison’s Pitzel said it should be competency-based.
“Legally it comes down to being competency based,” he said. “We believe that in-cab training should be 13 weeks long. And we have some at Bison that complete the program in 10 and some in 18, but it all comes down to competency. We don’t move them along until they master the task at hand. Plain and simple.”
And finally when it comes down to simulators versus real-time in-cab training, schools and carriers agreed both are necessary.
“I put students in the simulator to relieve anxiety,” he said. “I use it to build up their confidence and skill set without them being nervous.”
Pitzel added: “The simulator is a great tool to assist in the development of a professional driver. The thing about the simulator is I can put 2,000 drivers through a course in 3 months, and I could not do that with an in-cab instructor. Right now at Bison I have 67 in-cab instructors. I need 167. We need more trainers, so for now we need the simulators.”