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Live From OTA Part 4: Implementing Driver Finishing School

Part 4 - Driver Finishing School.jpg

Part 4 - Driver Finishing School.jpg

Why You Need a CDL Finishing School and How to Make Yours Better

According to the American Transportation Research Institute, the average age of a truck driver is 49 years old. What is the average age of your fleet of drivers? The pool of professional, safe drivers with experience is drying up quickly.

The previous three sections of this presentation How to Create Your Unique Driver Brand, How to Shift Your Brand Statement for Millennials, and Examples for the Real World become irrelevant in a few years if you don’t have a process in place to bring on your next generation of divers.

You’re going to need to bring on less experienced drivers in order to deliver freight into the next decade. As you know, less experienced drivers are a greater risk than a seasoned vet. However, a thorough, structured Finishing School program closes the gap and, if done properly, produces a new driver with no bad habits.

A driver that just earned his or her CDL needs extra love and polish. If you don’t have your own Finishing School program, you’re relying on other companies to instill proper defensive driving principles. We’ve seen “Finishing School programs” (we use that term lightly) where drivers with six months of experience are the trainer. You and I know that’s unacceptable and it is not producing anyone you’ll want to hire in the future.

Getting The Insurance Company Onboard

Many companies don’t even think about starting a CDL Finishing School program because of insurance requirements for years of experience. Dan Martin from Great West Casualty Insurance Company was in the audience at OTA this year and stated that they will evaluate each company on a case by case basis.

They will start by evaluating your loss history. Then, they do a thorough review of your curriculum and train the trainer program. They’ll want to hear that you’re starting with a small, controlled group and slowly grow the volume of graduates.


It starts with a structured, “train the trainer” model. Your Director of Safety should evaluate all prospective trainers for a clean MVR and no incidents with the company in the last year. Then evaluate them for how they will be as an instructor – being a great driver does not guarantee being a great teacher. You need to be very picky about who you bring on as a trainer.

We’re extremely picky about who is selected to participate in our train the trainer program, LLLC CertificationTM, because the lives of drivers on the road are too important to pencil whip. Your curriculum needs to have structured daily and weekly objectives for the new driver to accomplish. After eight to ten weeks on the road, your instructors need a thorough evaluation sheet before sending them out on their own.

Teach About the Industry and Your Company

Newbies have a steep learning curve. Mix activities into your structured training for drivers to research trucking terminology and get acquainted with your company. Send them on scavenger hunts to find out things like the company mission statement, top five customers, who’s been in dispatch the longest, etc. The stronger the bond is with the company, the more likely the driver is going to stay.

Provide a Mentor

A brand new career and brand new company can be overwhelming. It’s common that newbies joined the industry because of a paycheck, but don’t realize how hard the lifestyle is until they’re on the road. A dedicated mentor provides a lifeline for those “stupid” questions that are not stupid at all for someone who is figuring it out.

Have the mentor make proactive daily calls in the first few weeks to check in. Consider throwing the mentor a bonus for each month the newbie sticks around. Personal connections are the best defense against drivers leaving during or immediately after graduating your CDL Finishing School program.

If you want to build your own CDL Finishing School or want to improve what you have in place, check out what we’ve built with some of the industry’s forwarding thinking trucking companies.

Learn how to recruit more drivers by watching the "Building a Driver Brand Statement" video presentation

Building a Driver Brand Statement Presentation

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