When it comes to driver training, the conversation at many fleets goes like this:
“What if we train everybody and they leave?” – CFO
“What if we don’t train them and they stay?” – CEO
Outside of normal trucking expenses (fuel, truck, and insurance), the biggest unplanned costs that can hit your company are issues that a focused driver training program could reduce or help prevent.
These unplanned costs include accidents, speeding tickets, roadside violations, impacts of poor CSA scores, vehicle maintenance issues, driver turnover, and eventual increased insurance rates.
As a business owner or fleet manager, you try to prepare financially for many of these costs. The problem is we often do not consider ways to prevent the costs in the first place or we consider the preventive measures to be too expensive or undervalued.
The CFO worries about the short-term cost of training drivers in a high churn industry but misses the long-term impacts of not training the 80% of their drivers that will stay. A good CEO can understand the short-term and long-term impacts of the entire picture.
You are probably starting to think:
- What are the costs of a poor driver training program or not having one at all?
- How much would a driver training program cost?
In this article we will discuss:
- Financial impact of trucking accidents on your business
- Truck driver training, driver turnover and the impact on CSA scores
- How to implement a customized driver training program
Driver training and the impact of Accidents
Every owner-operator understands that the insurance rates for their first 3 years will be high because new drivers with little driving experience have the highest risk of getting into an accident.
When there is an accident, the costs can be extremely high.
FMCSA data show us that there are more than 5,000 fatalities due to truck accidents each year, and more than 100,000 truck accident injuries.
In 2019, 11% of all crash fatalities were due to large truck crashes. If this accident was a multiple-vehicle crash, 23% of passenger vehicle occupant deaths stemmed from a large truck collision.
The reality is that many of these accidents could have been prevented with adequate truck driver training or on-going training after they receive their first job.
According to the FMCSA, crashes are devastating in terms of fatalities and injuries, financial costs, damaged reputations, the inability to attract and retain good drivers, and general goodwill in the industry and community.
Specifically, let’s just look at the financial costs for large vehicle crashes:
- The cost of all large truck crashes is about $91,000 per accident
- A crash with injuries costs almost $200,000 per accident
- A crash with fatalities costs around $3.6 million per accident
Immediately following a potential driver-at-fault accident, an accident driver investigations must occur, looking into their training history and if the driver satisfied all their training requirements.
Unfortunately, records associated with driver training are often doctored following an accident with the hope to provide a more favorable picture of actual training that occurred.
After the investigations, pre-employment violations are often found around driver qualification files and lack of previous employment history on record.
The best way to avoid collisions is to drive safely. The best way to monitor driver safety habits is measuring the ELD telematic data over time to show trends in a simple Driver Scorecard.
With a customized driver training program, red flags on these driver scorecards can immediately give the driver courses on defensive driving, fuel efficiency, HOS regulations, or driver ELD training.
Then, if an accident does happen, the fleet can show proof of focused on-going training.
Driver training and the impacts of Driver Turnover and CSA Scores
In 2020, the driver turnover rate at large truckload carriers averaged 90% while smaller truckload fleets faced a 69% turnover on average.
In some circumstances, there are even fleets facing a 200% or 300% turnover rate, meaning a driver could be recruited, hired, and onboarded in January and replaced at least twice by December.
In these cases, it makes sense why fleets fear spending money on training new and current drivers. The operational budget for trucks and tires come first before investing in company culture, safety, and on-going training.
In other words, high driver turnover causes pressures to quickly train drivers and push them on the road to get money flowing after losing the previous driver.
However, Vigillo—a data analyzing firm—completed a recent study that found a group of fleets with high driver turnover had 1,177 total crashes where fleets with low driver turnover had just 303 total crashes.
“There is a pretty strong correlation between the safety culture that exists at a motor carrier, which can be measured in CSA, and turnover rates,” said Vigillo CEO, Steve Bryan.
Their data revealed that fleets with high driver turnover had:
- 189% more driver out-of-service rate
- 300% more vehicle out-of-service rate
- 181% more hours-of-service violations
- 224% more crash indicators
- 640% more hazmat violations, and
- 182% more controlled substance violations
According to FMCSA annual violation data, fleets regulated by the DOT have paid over $27 million annually in fines, which breaks down to an average of $5,074 per case for violations. With HAZMAT, this average nearly doubles.
Many of these violations will also place the truck out-of-service until the issues are fixed. Being placed out-of-service for 10 hours while a maintenance shop is fixing the truck can cost a fleet around $900 more.
You can already see the cost benefits of reducing high driver turnover through positive company culture and a successful driver training program.
How to implement near-term customized driver training
Today, new technology and equipment analyzes and optimizes nearly every facet of fleet efficiency. This includes electronic logging devices, dashcams, and fleet management software that driver must be trained to use.
Each driver comes with their own experiences, skills, and flaws and these technologies can be used to understand your driver better.
For example, if driver trainers notice a habit of hard acceleration or hard braking, they should make sure a video training schedule includes driving fundamentals and defensive driving topics.
Similarly, if there is a pattern of logbook errors, include logbook training and hours of service rules into their video training schedule.
All custom training schedules should be accompanied by common new driver training, such as reviewing common maintenance and pre-trip inspection training, what to expect during a roadside inspection and how to treat inspectors, highlight drug testing processes and marijuana regulations, seasonal safe driving tips, cargo securement training, etc.
Customized training should also be measurable using quiz assessments to track driver performance. If their assessment score is low, then the training needs to be retaken.