View from the Edge

Connecting Critical Events and Driver Training: Why Automation Isn't the Answer

In this issue, CarriersEdge co-founder Mark Murrell discusses the idea of automatically assigning drivers remedial or corrective training based on critical events, and why it rarely works out as hoped.

Over the past few months I've seen a number of discussions about linking training with driver management systems. In some cases, it's a CSA scorecard or other driver performance tracker, and in some cases it's a direct link to an event recorder in the truck. There have some announcements of different vendors working together, and we've certainly been approached on the issue as well.

However, while it may seem like an obvious way to improve efficiency, it almost never works out as planned. In many cases, it actually makes things worse.

In general, the thinking usually goes something like this - “when a driver does something wrong, we assign them remedial training, so if that can happen automatically then life will be better in the safety department”. Seems like a simple, reasonable approach, but as is often the case, reality isn't quite so simple and neat.

To be clear, the process of integrating two systems such that training can be assigned automatically based on certain activities is very straightforward. You get the two systems talking to each other, map the trigger events to the matching training content, and setup some notifications so people know that the automatic activity happened. A couple of days for setup and testing, at most. That's not the tricky part.

The tricky part (and where things get complicated), is figuring out whether training is even needed at all, and what training is required.

Let's use a common example - a driver has a hard-braking incident because they're following too closely. In the auto-assignment world, that hard-braking event triggers the driver to be assigned to a course on speed and space management, proper following distance, etc.

But is that what the driver needed?

At this point, we don't know. We don't know why the driver had the hard-braking incident, so we can't be sure what the best solution is. Was the hard-braking a result of following too closely? Was it a case of driver distraction? Did someone cut in front and force the action?

Each of those requires a different response, and it isn't always training. And even if the hard-brake was a result of following too closely, training may still not be the answer. Maybe the driver had personal or job-related stresses and was driving aggressively as a result - training won't fix that.

A far better solution is to talk to the driver about what happened, and plan a course of action from there. If it becomes clear that the driver really does have a gap in knowledge related to the issue, then training might well be the solution, but you won't know until you have that discussion and isolate the root cause of the problem. The investigation and discussion are the critical parts, and not something that can happen automatically through system integration.

In fact, this reflexive assignment of training often has an effect that's exactly the opposite of what's intended. If drivers get assigned training based on different events, with no consideration as to whether it's the right solution to the problem, they'll stop paying attention. They may do the training because they're required to, but they're not going to enjoy it, and they sure won't learn anything. They just end up hating the training and resenting the company for forcing them to do it. So on top of not fixing the actual problem, the business culture is degraded which reduces the overall productivity level. Nobody wins.

As producers of training content, this isn't what we want either. When you spend thousands of hours building content and a delivery system, you want people to enjoy the experience and get some value out of it.

I'm a huge fan of system integration, and we work with a lot of other vendors to streamline the process of passing data back and forth, but in this case I don't see a benefit.

Sometimes you just can't replace human interaction.

View from the Edge is a periodic review of best practices in risk management, driver development, and technology for the trucking industry, produced by CarriersEdge.

CarriersEdge provides interactive online driver training for the North American trucking industry. A comprehensive library of safety and compliance courses is supplemented with extensive content creation and customization options, full featured survey tools, detailed management reports, and the industry's first dedicated mobile app for driver training.

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