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How to Develop a Custom CDL Driver Training Program


Many transportation companies can greatly benefit from an off-the-shelf or “plug-and-play” CDL driver training program. Programs like our Bus Safety Course of The A-Fleet are more affordable and provide immense returns on your investments.

However, some companies will benefit much more from a custom CDL driver training program. If you work in a specialized industry, have a large budget, and have anywhere from 250 drivers and up, it might be worth developing a custom program.

Developing a custom driver training program takes time, money, and resources. Even so, when done correctly, it will pay for itself three times over in reduction in cost of loss. And we’ll share some tips with you on how to make the process as efficient as possible.

What is a Training Program?

This seems like a basic question, but we see a lot of confusion on this topic. A training program is NOT just videos or presentations on company policies, procedures, and safety standards. It may include those items, but it’s more than that. 

A driver training program is something that teaches both the knowledge and skills someone needs in order to be a safe and effective driver. Any driver training program worth its salt will consist of:

  • Education on traffic laws, safety principles, defensive driving principles, and company policies/procedures
  • Education on vehicle controls/instruments and vehicle inspections
  • Hands-on training for performing vehicle inspections as well as essential driving performance standards such as turns, backing, lane changing, etc.

Next, a driver training program consists of delivery platforms (in other words, how you teach the stuff listed above). Delivery platforms consist of presentations, meetings, videos, learning management systems for video hosting, mobile training apps, guidebooks, etc. Many of these delivery platforms will perform crucial functions such as tracking and storing training records or dispersing your content to all of your employees from one convenient platform.

Finally, you need a way to audit your driver training program to ensure it’s being implemented correctly as well as having the intended results.

Download Now: How to Choose a Defensive Driver Safety Program >>>

When Should You Make Your Own Program?

There are two aspects you need to consider: budget and goals.


Creating your own driver training program comes with larger upfront expenses than investing in existing programs. You need to pay someone to plan your training program, develop your content, create the content, disperse the content, implement the program, and track results.

However, these upfront costs might be worth it. Many subscription-based programs like our A-Fleet or The Bus Safety Course charge based on driver-count. For 90% of companies, it would take them decades of using these programs to reach the cost of an off-the-shelf program. That’s not the case for multi-international industry-leading companies with thousands of employees.

How much this will actually cost you depends on whether or not you have someone internally to build it for you or you contract it out, like our clients do with us

On paper, hiring a separate company is more expensive than having someone on your team do it, but proceed with caution. Creating a custom training program involves a lot more than just knowing about the job you’re training for (such as a manager at a bus depot understanding what it takes to be a bus operator).

In order to create an effective driver training program, you need to understand complicated fields of study such as:

  • Learning psychology
  • Instructional design theory
  • Industrial organizational psychology

Additionally, if you have someone internally create the program for you, there are still costs beyond their time. You may still have to spend money on video hosting services, printing costs for guides, etc.

All this to say, we’ve seen companies spend lots of time and resources creating a training program that doesn’t work.


Your second consideration for whether to create your own driver training program is your goals.

If you need to train your drivers on something universal (defensive driving, vehicle inspections, etc.) the cost versus benefit swings towards an off-the-shelf model. The additional outcomes you would get from tailoring the content to your company aren’t greater than the cost of the program.

However, if you work in an extremely specialized industry and have high costs of loss, you might need to invest in a custom program.

3 Tips for Success

Once you’ve weighed your budget and goals and decided you might need to create your own training program, you might be lost on where to start. Here are six tips that will help ensure your training program will actually save you time, money, and lives.

1. Start with the end in mind.

We’re stealing this one from Covey’s famous Highly Effective Habits book. When it comes to developing a training program, you need to start with the end in mind. Or, in other words, start with your learning outcomes.

Learning outcomes are essentially what you want your drivers to think, know, or do differently after going through your training program. Learning outcomes fit into three categories: Affective (how people will feel about the topic after the training), Cognitive (what people will know after training), and Behavioral (what people will do after the training).

Depending on the scope of your training program, this list will be massive. For example, when we developed a comprehensive new operator training program for a transit agency, our learning outcomes list was dozens of pages long.

Let’s start small, though. If you were going to make a training program on how to safely back a tractor-trailer, a few examples of learning outcomes would be:

  • Drivers will understand that backing is an extremely risky maneuver (Affective)
  • Drivers will know that the biggest blind spot on their truck is right behind them (Cognitive)
  • Drivers will always get out and look before they back (Behavioral)

When you create a comprehensive list of learning outcomes, you can ensure your training program will accomplish what you need it to.

2. Understand how people learn

The first thing that might come to mind for you here is that people have different learning styles. This is true, but what’s even more important to understand is that knowledge and skills are learned differently.

We learn knowledge (information, facts, principles, etc.) via education. Education happens through videos, presentations, discussions, meetings, or even just conversations.

We learn skills (how to do something) via training. Training only really happens when there’s hands-on practice. For example, it’s impossible to learn how to sink the eight ball in a game of billiards, play a song on the violin, paint a portrait, or conduct a pre-trip inspection on a bus without hands-on practice.

You need to know which aspects of a topic must be taught via education and which can only be taught via training.

3. Know when to outsource

We mentioned this earlier, but it bears repeating: you need to know when you can’t handle something internally. It’s unlikely that you have a team of instructional designers, organizational psychologists, videographers, programmers, and graphic designers on hand.  That’s what it will take to create a comprehensive, effective, and robust training program.

However, even if you do have all of those folks, it’s still likely you’ll need tools such as a learning management system to store, organize, and access online courses. You may also need a mobile training app to track, document, and improve training.

These tools, while they often come loaded with off-the-shelf content, can easily be utilized for a custom program.