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Orientation, Training and Safety Meetings Shouldn’t Suck

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orientationDrivers don’t remember your lectures during safety meetings.  Your orientation puts them to sleep.  They’re ready to poke their eyeballs out during training because they’ve seen those old, tired videos a dozen times already.

It’s not you and it’s not your fault.  Lectures just don’t work.  They didn’t work when you were in high school and they don’t work now.  They don’t work in PhD programs and they certainly don’t work with truck drivers.

Lectures are a vestige of the three hundred year old British Grammar School Model.  It goes like this:  I know it. You don’t.  Shut up and listen.  Perhaps the best parody of just how ineffectual this delivery process is can be found in Ben Stein’s lecture in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

So why do we resort to lectures?  Mostly because it seems like the quickest way to cover a lot of information.  Maybe it is, but it sure doesn’t result on learning.  It’s the easiest way to prove to the feds or lawyers that you’ve checked the box and are compliant.  Compliance is needed, but it doesn’t get you better results.

A recent study published in May 2014 concluded that “students in classes with traditional stand-and-deliver lectures are 1.5 times more likely to produce students that fail than students in classes that use more stimulating interactive learning methods” (Bajak).  Scott Freeman of the University of Washington, Seattle put it another way, “if you have a course with 100 students signed up, about 34 fail if they get lectured to but only 22 fail if they do active learning, according to our analysis.”

Lecturing has been around since universities were founded in 1050.  But we think teaching methods have evolved in the last 1,000 years, even in trucking.  “It’s almost unethical to be lecturing if you have this data” say Eric Mazur, a physicist at Harvard University.

So if your high school history class put you to sleep and that last webinar you attended kept your attention for thirty seconds try some thing different.

safety meetingFirst, separate safety from compliance.  Teach compliance.  You have to.  But spend more energy and time on safety.  You’ll get better results.  The definition of safety is freedom from risk.  Safety courses should focus on human behaviors…the things drivers do that lead to accidents and injuries.  Teach them how to avoid risk.  And compliance will improve as you teach your drivers how to avoid risk.


  1. Evaluate your presentation materials.  Replace talking points with questions.  Questions make people think.
  2. Evaluate your stale videos. Replace talking heads with interactive self-directed learning.
  3. Evaluate your certification processes.  Replace multiple choice tests with student-led presentations and learning games.

Don’t just “check the box.”  If you’re going to spend time teaching drivers (and you’d better), make it worth your time and theirs.

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