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The Ultimate Guide to
Professional Driver Training


At AvatarFleet, we talk a lot about professional driver safety.

The average trucking company spends about 5% of revenue paying for all forms of loss (AL, GL, WC, Property and Cargo). Effective outcome-based education and training, that actually changes employee behaviors has been proven to reduce loss frequency by 30, 40 and even 50%.

Just imagine how good it would feel to keep half of your loss costs in the profit column. For many trucking companies that would actually double net profits. Why waste money on claimants, insurance companies and lawyers?

In this guide, you'll learn about the benefits of professional driver training, the different methodologies for delivering training and how to decide which method is right for you.

Editors Note: Struggling to select a defensive driving safety program that fits your organization's needs? Download our Free Guide: How to Choose a Driver Safety Program

What is Professional Driver Training and Why Use it?

class full of people at a professional driver course

Professional driver training when done properly is outcome-based. Outcome-based means it teaches the proper safe behaviors by actually preventing accidents from happening in the first place.

The obvious reasons to use professional driver training is to prevent accidents, claims, injuries and fatalities from occurring altogether. But as long as there are humans behind the wheel, we all know that accident free roads are not realistic. The definition of safety is freedom from risk. You’ll never be free of risk while driving professionally. However, all accidents have a cause – and the root cause is always human behavior.

The fact of the matter is all accidents are preventable. Just because your driver was not “at fault” does not mean the accident was not preventable. Outcome-based defensive driving training starts with the behaviors we want to see on the road and work backwards to create a curriculum.

"Just because your driver was not “at fault” does not mean the accident was not preventable. Outcome-based defensive driving training starts with the behaviors we want to see on the road and work backwards to create a curriculum."

An outcome-based curriculum takes into account your operations and uses a blended approach of self-directed, classroom and behind-the-wheel learning.

If you’re a leader in your company, you’re in a Safety Leadership position because safety starts at the top. Your mission is to operation-alize safety. Operation-alizing safety puts systems and processes in place to do things the right way, the first time, every time. Safety needs to be a cultural norm. We want to influence human behavior so that the proper safe behaviors are habitual. We want drivers who do not adhere to these norms to be coached by anyone and everyone. They should know they’ll need to look for another job if they don’t meet your safety standards.

Your drivers will buy into your safety culture if you can demonstrate to your drivers that you are investing in their career with education and training. They know if you’re just checking the box as a part of a “Cover Your Behind” Program. In fact, drivers will put as much into safety as you put into it. Set your safety standards high and stick to your guns. It will be crucial to a creating a culture of safety and in turn, save lives.

A-Fleet Clips

Read the articles below to learn more about the proper way to implement behaviorally-based professional driver training and why your company should invest further into safety leadership.

Truck Driver Training: In the never-ending struggle to find qualified drivers, trucking companies are so desperate to service their clients that the driver training has become an afterthought. The irony is if you had a more stable and professionally trained fleet, your customer service would improve drastically and your losses would decrease immensely. Those companies that prioritize on-time delivers and warm butts in cold seats ahead of safety do so at their long term peril. Ensuring each driver is properly trained improves customer satisfaction and more importantly, let’s your drivers come back safely to their families.

Truck Driver Training Saves Lives: In a world full of statistics, social media posts and 24 hour news cycles, traffic accidents and fatalities are inappropriately accepted as a something that just happens. We have become desensitized and forgot that all accidents have a cause: human behavior. You can play a part of making the roads safer by investing in truck driver training.

Trucking Accidents: Safe, professional drivers know what accidents are and what causes them. Because accidents are caused, they can be prevented. If you’re spending 5% of revenue on accidents, you can add 1-2% to your bottom line through accident prevention.

Training Prevents Accidents, Builds Productivity: Old school operations people have historically believed that pulling drivers off the road for training is a waste of time because it prevents them from delivering a load. The facts are that investing in training pays dividends 10-fold in keeping the trucks moving and increasing customer satisfaction.  

The Cost of Loss in Trucking Accidents: The last thing you want to do is call a customer to let them know their load is on the side of the road. However, transportation has always run lean on thin margins. The fallacy is there’s no time to invest in training. Wasting 5% of revenue to loss would suggest that your margins are so tight that you MUST to invest in training. Watch this short video examining on the financial outcomes, or cost of loss, due to fatalities on the road.

Delivery Methods of Professional Driver Training

Instructor speaking at the professional driver course

Humans learn in various formats: kinetic, auditory and visual. The delivery of your annual safety campaign should accommodate all learning styles in a blended approach to be the most effective.

"The delivery of your annual safety campaign should accommodate all learning styles in a blended approach to be the most effective."

Select your top loss leaders (we’re guessing backing and lane changing will be on the list). Tackle one of these topics each month. Keep it simple. Only focus on one topic at a time.

Use a blended approach of learning styles to drive the points home.

  • Online: Use mobile friendly online driver training to provide quick 3-5 minute refreshers of the topics that match your campaign

  • Classroom: Quarterly and/or Monthly Safety Meetings. We know it’s hard to get everyone in the same room, so organize small group sessions through the month as to not disrupt operations.

  • Train-the-Trainer Certification Program: There is no better learning tool than hands on behind-the-wheel instruction. LLLC Instructor and Driver Certification is designed to work around the operations schedule to embed safety through the organization through a structured train-the-trainer program. You’ll have the side benefit of creating a retention tool by creating a driver career path.

  • CDL Finishing School Programs: The whole economy is experiencing a mass exodus of 80 million boomers leaving the workforce. There are only 69 million Generation Xers out there. You need a path to hire the 86 million millennials who were born between 1985 and 2004. Our CDL Finishing School program builds on LLLC Instructor and Driver Certification to take a fresh CDL graduate and create a polished professional driver in eight weeks. It’s a must if you need drivers after 2025.

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Read the articles below to learn more about the different delivery methods of professional driver training:

What is Self-Directed Learning?: Self-directed is economical, works around operations and is scale-able across many locations and regardless where your drivers are traveling that day. It is most effective when implemented as interactive, mobile friendly courses.

What is Behind-The-Wheel Training?: In behind-the-wheel driver training, the trainee is in the driver’s seat of the truck behind the steering wheel. AvatarFleet's goal with this methodology is to appeal to the four learning domains during the training process: affective, cognitive, behavioral and organizational.

Online Professional Driver Training: What You Need to Know: There are hundreds of factors to consider when building an online safety training curriculum. It starts with asking the right questions, creating effective designs, producing engaging content and delivering learning in the most efficient manner possible.

Creating a Career Path for Drivers: Why It's Important: LLLC Instructor and Driver Certification, not only creates safer drivers,it also career path opportunity for drivers. Historically the professional driver career path was to stick around to earn a small bump in cents per mile each year. It has little to do with performance other than you didn’t do anything to get fired. The other option was hope an office position opens up but those are few and far between. Whether the driver is becoming a certified Instructor or Driver, they’ll have a few extra letters next to their name. The companies that see the highest return also provide a financial incentive for the drivers willing to invest their own time in the certification process.

Why You Need Driver Finishing School:  To have drivers less than 50 years old in your fleet, you need to be ready to have the proper support and mentorship in place for younger drivers. Without proper training, your millennial drivers will only increase your risk as a trucking company.

Choosing a Professional Driver Training Program

3 gentle men attending a professional driver training program

Creating a professional driver safety training program and campaign is a daunting task if you’re starting from scratch - especially if you're in charge of insurance, claims management, discipline, hiring standards and whatever else operations doesn’t want to do.

"Creating a professional driver safety training program and campaign is a daunting task if you’re starting from scratch - especially if you're in charge of insurance, claims management, discipline, hiring standards and whatever else operations doesn’t want to do."

It can be simple though if you partner with an expert who builds programs and safety campaigns for a living. The process can be boiled down to a few strategic questions you need to ask yourself on the outset, before you even start evaluating providers:

  • How are you going to work with operations to deliver a blended learning styles: self-directed, classroom and behind-the-wheel?
  • What are the topics you need to cover with your drivers and what’s the priority order?
  • How do you forecast the ROI from investing in Professional Driver Training?

Once you answer these questions, you'll have a good understanding how to qualify the different types of programs that are out there.

Read the articles below to learn about how to choose a professional driver training course.

5 Topics You Should Be Teaching in Your Truck Driver Safety Training: Professional drivers are held to higher standards. They are responsible for driving in a way that allows for the mistakes of others. To reduce the frequency of losses at your fleet, read about these five topics you should be teaching in your truck driver safety training.

What is Defensive Driving?: Defensive driving begins with the right mindset. Professional Drivers are taught to allow for the mistakes of others and let the other guy win. The real competition is returning home safely.

Driver Safety Training: What's It Cost?: Professional Driver Training should be viewed as an investment with forecasted ROI, not an expense. Ask yourself: "How much would it cost our company to NOT to do professional driver training?" Work with us to calculate your total cost of loss and forecast the return you’ll see by investing in Professional Driver Training. 

The ABC's of Defensive Driving: It’s impossible to be completely safe on the road because it’s impossible to be completely free from risk. The most effective way to mitigate risk and to understand human behavior and teach the proper behaviors we want behind the wheel.

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