Driver training – 6 things you need to think about

If you are a business leader thinking about driver training options for your organisation, there can be a bewildering array of choices and decisions. Here are six things you need to consider.

1. Review your current training set-up

There are a number of ways to check the success or otherwise of your current training provision and to see where changes or further interventions might be necessary. The following sources of information should give you a much clearer picture:

  • Collision data and insurance claims.

  • Vehicle-maintenance records. You might have two drivers with similar mileage, but one gets through tyres much more quickly.

  • Regular reviews of the number of points on drivers’ licences (annually for those with 3pts; six-monthly for 6pts; monthly for 9pts).

  • Complaints from members of the public.

  • Anecdotal information from staff.

  • Data from telematics and driver-training apps.

  • Feedback from your drivers on what they think of their training.

2. Assess your drivers

It’s important to understand the type of driving your drivers do. Which vehicles are they driving? How much time do they spend in the middle of cities versus country lanes or motorways? What sort of mileage do they do? Another consideration is that drivers aren’t necessarily returning to hubs or offices as much, which makes it more difficult to make assessments about what training is needed and how to roll it out. 

3. Know your training options

Driver training comes in many forms. As a consequence of Covid, much is now online in e-learning packages. But there is also video content, along with webinars and in-class workshops. At the personalised end of the spectrum, there are trainers who will sit alongside the driver, either on a race track or the road, for a practical driving assessment. Typically, an employee will be asked to drive for 15-20 minutes to allow their normal style of driving to emerge. The trainer will then address any issues that have arisen. Finally, some safety-centric telematics companies like Brightmile have also started integrating driver coaching into their product offerings.

4. Know the pros and cons of each option

  • One-to-one in-vehicle training. A ball-park figure might be £200-£300 for half a day. You’ll also need to factor in the downtime for the employee. It can be very effective in the short term as it is so customised to the driver. However, the impact can wear off quickly if not reinforced.

  • In-class workshops. It might cost £600-£800 to train 18 people for half a day, which is significantly cheaper per head, but it does create a significant downtime, and on-road habits cannot be assessed. There is the same risk of the impact fading, but it is more cost-effective, especially where the participants have similar driving patterns.

  • Webinars. Costs vary, but typically the cheapest option so long as drivers have access to a screen/wifi. However, trying to pin people down to a time and date for webinars can be difficult, and there is no guarantee that people who have joined the session are actually paying attention.

  • E-learning. Offers more flexibility on timing and a drip-feed approach to learning that can have a longer-term impact. It can also be customised to a particular audience or age group with bespoke modules/content. Again, there is no guarantee that the people assigned the modules are actually doing them.

  • Telematics. One downside of the other options is that it is difficult to assess the ongoing impact of training other than in the form of collision stats when it might already be too late. Deploying telematics allows companies to monitor real-life behavioural trends like speeding and smartphone distraction. Tailored training interventions can then be delivered to drivers, creating a powerful combined proposition. If an individual isn’t responding to their training, instead of waiting for the next collision, it will be immediately obvious from the telematics data.

5. Keep an eye on the future

Organisations should also be wary of the move to electric vehicles. First-time drivers are often surprised by how powerful they are. Regenerative braking can also be an issue on certain settings if set to ‘single-pedal use’ as it can lead to the brakes being applied firmly as you take your foot off the accelerator. It means that some form of electric vehicle familiarisation training may be required for drivers.

6. What does ‘good’ training look like?

Drawing all of this together, the most effective training considers the driver, the vehicle, the job and the journeys made. All too often, driver training is often viewed in isolation, but it should be an integral part of a holistic driver safety programme. There is no silver bullet, and the ideal setup is likely to be a mixture of solutions tailored to your organisation and drivers.

With thanks to driver safety consultant Adrian Hide

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