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Getting rolling with online training: what to do before you start

Mark Murrell

The last couple of months have been fantastic for us. We've had healthy growth in our customer base for a few years now, but since April it's been crazy! Some of those new customers are fleets that were fed up with poor service from other vendors, but the bulk are people moving their training online for the first time. That's the part that really excites me - the industry has clearly hit the point where people accept eLearning as a standard way of training their drivers. That's really cool!

Of course, with all those fleets moving online for the first time, there are lots of things to consider, and planning to be done, to ensure the rollout goes smoothly.

As it happens, our July monthly webinar was focused on exactly that - best practices for launching online training for drivers and maximizing the chances of success. There are plenty of useful tidbits in that webinar, so over the next couple of articles I'll break out some of the things that were covered, along with some additional thoughts on how to smooth the process for everyone.

Part I - Who, Where, and How

The first things to address when getting ready to rollout online training are who's going to get it, where they're accessing from, and how they're accessing it. Those can seem really obvious - it's driver training so drivers will get it, and it's online so that's how they'll access it - but there's more to it than that. Let's dig into it and have a look.

Who's getting it?

While it's a given that drivers will be the main audience for online driver training, it doesn't have to be JUST drivers. There are lots of other groups in the company that can benefit from it as well - dispatchers, warehouse workers, etc. They may not get access to it on Day 1, but it's worth considering them when putting together the larger plan.

Our most successful customers have both drivers and operations do the same courses, so everyone is on the same page. An added benefit with that approach is that ops staff can help drivers with any issues that come up, which will come in handy later when we talk about how to communicate the rollout and create habits around it.

Another thing to consider here is whether all drivers will be getting access at the same time, or if the rollout will happen in stages. In general, if the fleet has less than 200 drivers then everyone can get access at the same time.

If you have more 200, then it's best to break them up into groups and roll it out in stages. This is a new process, after all, so there are going to be things to figure out as it gets going, and starting with a smaller group allows you to focus on identifying those things and dealing with them, without being overwhelmed. It doesn't have to be exactly 200, but somewhere around that size is a reasonable cutoff point.

Once you have everything running smoothly with that first group (which may take 3-6 months depending on what else is happening in the company) then you can start rolling it out to other groups in stages until everyone is on board. Some fleets break it up by job board, some by terminal, and some by type of freight - it doesn't really matter how you break it up as long as it's something that makes sense within the existing org structure of the company.

Now that you've figured out who's getting access and when, you can move on to the second consideration...

Where are people accessing from?

While online training allows people to access content from a variety of different places - head office, remote terminals, in the cab, truckstops, home - you may not want them taking advantage of all of those things right away. If online training is a new experience for the company, you're better off to have people connect through some channel that you have control over.

The reason for that is simple - you don't want drivers having a bad experience because of poor hardware or a crappy connection and blaming the training (or you). You want to control as many variables as possible in the beginnning, to ensure it gets started as smoothly as possible, and that generally means having people use it in the office to begin with. That's a short term solution, and you can start allowing access from other places pretty quickly after launch, but playing it safe in this area pays off down the road.

Thinking about where people are connecting from very quickly leads to question number 3...

How will they connect?

This is an extension of the question above, and the really should be considered together, but most people I talk to seem to think of them independently so I'm doing the same here.

This question is really about what technology people are going to use to access the content. There are a variety of options here as well - they could be using a PC in the terminal, an in-cab satellite system, maybe you provide tablets or smartphones to drivers, or maybe they have their own devices. Any of these are good options, so it's mostly a matter of who has access to what, and what they prefer to use.

Therein lies the challenge for most fleets - figuring out exactly what the technology profile looks like for their drivers. How many of them take devices on the road with them? How many have access at home? How many have no access at all and will need the company to provide it? Yeah, I know it seems crazy but even in 2016 there's still an appreciable number of drivers who don't have connectivity at home and don't take smart phones on the road.

So, how do you figure out what the lay of the land is within the fleet? The best thing to do is survey them and find out. You can put a survey out through the satellite, poll them at a driver meeting, or even ask them individually if the fleet is small enough, and it won't take long to start getting a sense of who has access to what.

While doing that, it's also a good idea to start collecting their personal email addresses, if you don't already have them. They'll be really helpful down the road when it comes time to send rollout messages and reminders, so collecting it as part of a device survey will save time later.

Right around this time, the corporate IT people generally start asking questions about the system requirements for this new initiative. If they're looking at setting up some machines in driver lounges or other access points in the terminal, they're going to want to know how to spec those machines. Fortunately, this is usually an easy conversation - online training isn't particularly resource-intensive so pretty much any machine on the market will suffice.

Satellites are another option as well. Most modern satellite systems are just small PCs or tablets, so as long as your drivers can connect the device to a wi-fi network, there shouldn't be any issues using them for training.

Both desktop and satellite, however, are giving way to mobile. Like everything else in the tech industry, the massive adoption of smartphones and tablets has people expecting to do everything through their personal devices. I think that's a better option than the satellite, since drivers can access the training even when they're not in the truck, personalize the experience more, and have quicker access, but different things work for different people.


Once you've developed a picture of what tech drivers have access to, and started to figure out what else you need to do to provide access for everyone, you're ready to move on to the communication part of the rollout - arguably the most important part of the whole thing.

We'll tackle that in Part II, so stay tuned!