Training drivers to avoid fixed objects doesn’t resolve the greater issue.
By Mark Murrell
Every couple of months we get a request from someone for a course on avoiding fixed-object collisions. Usually, we don’t even get that much detail in the request. It’s just, “do you have a fixed-object course?”
There are lots of ‘fixed-object’ courses available in the trucking industry in both classroom and online formats, so I’m not surprised people ask. However, in truth there’s no such thing as dedicated training courses to avoid fixed-object collisions.
What I find is that fixed-object collisions are backing incidents, bad turns or improper clearance, with the occasional rear-end incident popping up as well. But are these the courses the fleet manager should be requesting? What issues do these courses really solve? The reality is, if you need a course to teach you how to avoid crashing into something, that’s a problem.
Drivers shouldn’t be treated as a distinct entity with dedicated training. Instead, they should be trained to properly execute the specific maneuvers—backing, turning, etc.—regardless of whether other objects are present. If you train someone specifically to avoid a fixed object, are you saying it’s OK to do the turn poorly if there’s nothing in the way? Is it OK to do a terrible job backing as long as you don’t hit something? Of course not.
Offering a fixed-objects course is a great example of treating the symptom rather than the disease. The training focus should be on performing maneuvers properly. Your drivers should be offered courses on proper driving techniques for intersections, turns and curves. Similar story for backing.
Focusing on driver behavior rather than the specific outcome of one situation leads to much better performance and provides a more effective training experience as well. Imagine the poor driver placed in a fixed-objects course who is trying to figure out why some of the content talks about turns, while portions talk about parking lots or loading docks, or about low bridges. It’s all over the map and not connected in any way that’s meaningful. On the other hand, a course specifically about all the ins and outs of doing proper turns is going to make more sense, and the content will be retained more easily.
The moral of this story is to think about the behavior that needs to be changed rather than focusing too much on a specific outcome of that behavior. You’ll get better results.
Mark Murrell is co-founder of CarriersEdge, a provider of online driver training for the trucking industry, and co-creator of Best Fleets to Drive For, an annual evaluation of the best workplaces in the North American trucking industry produced in partnership with the Truckload Carriers Association. He can be reached at www.carriersedge.com.