What is Behind-the-Wheel Training?

Posted by Mark G. Gardner on June 5, 2018 in the category

Behind the Wheel Driving

Every industry has its own unique vocabulary and set of acronyms that are thrown around daily. These words and letters are meaningless to outsiders. Trucking is a perfect example. Imagine a banker listening to a conversation between two trucking executives discussing glad hands, pancakes or DQ files. They’d be scratching their heads wondering what was going on.

AvatarFleet simultaneously lives in two worlds: transportation and human performance improvement. Each of these industries has its own vocabulary. Thus, we find ourselves merging terms like learning outcomes and metacognitive processing with terms like stale green light and blind backing.

So, it’s no surprise that when people land on our website they immediately ask us to define some of the terms we use so loosely. One of those terms is BTW Training. We’ve used this term for 40 years and rarely give it a second thought. But to the uninitiated, it’s meaningless. It stands for Behind-The-Wheel training. And, just like it sounds, it suggests that the trainee is in the driver’s seat of the truck behind the steering wheel.

We could take the smartest person in the world and show them hours of instructional videos, let them study safety, defensive driving, rules and regulations. And, in the end, they would not be a safe professional driver. Under the best of circumstances, they might be someone who knows something about safety and defensive driving. But the only way to get good at a skill is to do it. This is where learning domains come in.

Professional instructional designers understand the importance of learning domains. However, most of them only consider two: knowledge and skills. AvatarFleet addresses all four domains:

  • Affective
  • Cognitive
  • Behavioral
  • Organizational 
Let’s take them one-at-a-time.

Affective Domain

This is another word for receptivity. The human brain is just like a muscle. It’s lazy. It doesn’t want to put any effort or energy into learning something new, unless there is a compelling reason. In fact, learning can’t begin until the learner is motivated and interested. Our designs feature affective elements to create interest and demonstrate the benefits of learning the new material. We use the term W.I.I.F.M. (What's in it for me?

And even though the trainee is never going to ask that question out loud, they’re always subconsciously thinking it.

We begin every lesson with the answer. This will make you safer. This will make you more efficient. This will help you make more money. This’ll keep the boss off your back.

Cognitive Outcomes

Once we have their interest, we can turn to second-level learning.

Cognitive outcomes refer to knowledge-based learning. They include concepts, principles, ideas and mental processes. Think back to High School. The teacher taught and (hopefully) you paid attention. At the end of the quarter you took a test. If you got better than 80% you moved on to the next grade.

Our clients care about cognitive outcomes, but they’re far more keen on behavioral outcomes.

Behavioral Outcomes

This is where skills come in. Skills are defined as “how to do things.” Skills almost always have a physical element to them. We can observe a trainee and assess their level of skill. This is where BTW Training comes in. We have to provide opportunities for the trainee to actually drive the truck. To change lanes. To negotiate adverse conditions. To allow for the mistakes of others. Skills can’t be learned in a classroom. They can only be learned in a truck.

Perhaps the most important aspect of our Behind-the-Wheel instruction is our demand for continuous Commentary Driving. There I go again with another unique term. I better explain. During Commentary Driving, the trainee describes out loud everything they see, what it means to them and how they’re going to react. Commentary Driving forces the trainee to think about driving and nothing else. It’s impossible to think about last night’s baseball game or buying a pizza when you’re doing Commentary Driving. Commentary Driving helps our instructors get inside the trainee’s head. It helps us determine if the trainee knows what to look for, what it means and how to react.

Earlier, I mentioned four learning domains. And, this is very important. You can buy pretty-looking training videos or low-cost web-based training courses, but very few are outcome-based. That’s because most designers don’t even consider the fourth learning domain: organizational.

Organizational Outcomes

These are the most important of all. They are what you achieve once your employees have completed training. Organizational outcomes include fewer collisions, fewer citations, fewer breakdowns, more timely deliveries and of course better financial performance.

"What’s the point of training your drivers, if you don’t expect better organizational results?"

So, there you have it. A tiny glimpse into our world of trucking, safety, instructional design and human performance improvement.

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