A Driver Failed a Test. Now What?
January 18, 2017
Yesterday I got asked a very interesting question - If a driver fails a test and the company doesn't pull that driver off the road, are they negligent?
The question is similar to ones I've had before (and I discussed the whole issue of test scores and negligence here) but this particular variation hasn't come up previously, and it intrigued me.
My answer came in two parts. First, I suggested contacting legal counsel for a formal opinion if there's a concern. However, I also noted that all the legal presentations I've seen and all the individual lawyers I've talked to say the same thing about minimizing this kind of exposure - have a process and stick to it. As a result, whether someone passes or fails a test is less important than having a process for handling these situations and following it consistently.
If the company policy is to immediately park any driver who fails a test, and that doesn't happen in one situation, then the company is more likely to have negligence issues. If the policy is to route people in for a meeting, at the earliest convenience after failing a test, then allowing a driver to continue driving after failing a test may not be a big problem at all.
Based on that, the more interesting part of the discussion is really about what constitutes a good policy for handling failed tests. Should people be parked immediately? Should they be scheduled in for a review? What are the best practices when it comes to post-training or post-testing follow-up?
These are excellent questions, and I realized that I need to expand my “How to rollout online training successfully” webinar to include a discussion about this. Every company needs to figure out what will work for them, within the context of their business and corporate culture, so it's something that's worth spending a few minutes on early in the rollout process. Here are some things to consider when thinking about this.
All Failures Are Not Equal
First, it's important to remember that failing a test isn't as binary as it seems. Yes, the score may lead to a pass/fail result, but that's not enough to make an informed judgement in the risk management world. Maybe the participant failed the test by one point because they misread a question or clicked the wrong box and didn't notice. That's a lot different than someone who misses half the questions because they really don't understand the content.
At the same time, not every subject carries equal weight. Safe driving, logbooks, vehicle inspection - those are all subjects that directly affect on-road safety, so they're pretty important, but what if someone fails a fatigue management course? That's not quite the same thing.
When crafting a policy on handling failed tests, be sure to consider these different situations and plan for them accordingly.
Failed Test or Failed Course?
Many eLearning systems, including ours, have some leeway when it comes to test failure. Recognizing that people may fail for a variety of reasons, as noted above, most commercial Learning Management Systems give people a couple of tries at the final test before marking them as failed in a course. In our system, people get two chances, but I've seen others that offer three.
Having a policy that tracks people failing courses rather than tracking every individual test will provide better insight into actual knowledge levels and help determine whether or not follow-up activity is really warranted.
Forget About Perfection
I've ranted before about why I don't like tests that require 100% to pass, and it's important here as well. Forcing people to get 100% on a test doesn't confirm that they know the answers, and doesn't give you the management tools you need to intervene appropriately. Management follow-up is far more important and far more valuable so focus on creating a policy that includes reviewing the driver's activities and making informed decisions about further interventions, rather than just having people keep retrying until they get an acceptable score.
In-person Is Unnecessary
One of the places where we've noticed a significant blind spot in the trucking industry as a whole is the focus on in-person meetings. In the Best Fleets to Drive For program we ask companies how they structure driver meetings, and a large percentage of participants respond by explaining how they can't get people together to conduct a meeting - completely ignoring options like conference calls and virtual meetings that are designed for exactly these situations.
Post-training follow-up is the same - there's no reason that it needs to be done in person. If the policy specifies that drivers who fail a test get routed back to the terminal to attend live training, that's going to be unsustainable because it's really disruptive to the business. It's also unnecessary when there are so many other ways of accomplishing the same thing.
A better option is to start with a phone call to discuss the results. If it becomes clear through the call that the driver needs a greater level of personal attention, or would benefit from specialized training, it can be scheduled from there, but start with something manageable.
Trend Analysis is Valuable
Following up individually, and planning activities based on specific results, are both very useful, but broader trend analysis is equally useful. Identifying the subject areas that tend to cause challenges, or the individuals who struggle across a variety of subject areas, gives insights into other places that need attention but may not be as visible when looking at individual results. Those insights can allow for proactive interventions that avoid problems altogether.
Combining the Parts
Putting all those pieces together, you might come up with a process that looks like this:
- A driver who fails a course in a subject directly related to on-road safety gets a follow-up call from a trainer within 2 business days of the failure to discuss the results.
- Following that call, the trainer determines the appropriate course of action. Outstanding knowledge gaps may have been addressed sufficiently on the call, or a personalized coaching plan may be created. Any personalized coaching plans start within 1 week and continue until competence is demonstrated.
- At the beginning of each day, safety personnel review the previous day's activities and identify drivers that meet the criteria for follow-up calls.
- On a monthly basis (or quarterly, depending on fleet size and activity), safety personnel run analytics reports to identify subject areas requiring additional follow-up and plan proactive training to address. Similar analytics also identify individuals needing more focused follow-up and those activities are planned as well.
You could go into more detail about what courses are considered to be on-road safety, and what acceptable coaching plans might be, but this is a starting point. I would also plan to review the policy quarterly for the first year and adjust as necessary, since you'll likely need some revisions before finding the right balance in the company. Write it all down, review it with the risk services people at the insurance company and legal counsel, and you'll be taking a big step in the right direction!