In April 2018, a B-train tractor-trailer collided with a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team near Tisdale, Saskatchewan. Sixteen lives were lost that day and thirteen people were seriously injured. Most of the fatalities were the young players, aged 16-21.
The Humboldt crash is a tragic example of the high costs, both human and financial, of inadequate training. The driver, like many new drivers in both Canada and the U.S., only had enough training to pass a driving test and get a CDL. On the day of the collision, he had been driving a commercial vehicle for a total of three weeks.
The driver accepted responsibility for the incident but, as veteran driver and journalist Jim Park noted in Heavy Duty Trucking: responsibility also rests with his employer and even the government of Canada for failing to ensure the driver received adequate training.
How Sidhu came to be piloting a 140,000-pound B-train combination with three weeks of experience is a conundrum, yet there are no regulations or requirements that say you need a certain amount of experience before you do. In fact, B-trains are a common piece of equipment in western Canada, so it’s not that much of a stretch that he would be pulling one, but so soon after getting his license?
He should never have been placed in that position, but his employer apparently didn’t think it was a problem.
Following the horrific incident, the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators made mandatory entry level training (MELT) a national standard. Six provinces have adopted (or are in the process of adopting) MELT.
Stateside, the FMCSA requires Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT) for any entry level driver who wants to:
- Obtain a Class A or Class B CDL for the first time;
- Upgrade an existing Class B CDL to a Class A CDL; or
- Obtain a school bus (S), passenger (P), or hazardous materials (H) endorsement for the first time
The rule takes effect February 7, 2022, but there’s no good reason to wait. Imagine responding to a plaintiff’s attorney with, “but the driver started with us in January, we weren’t required to provide more extensive training for another month.”
What New Drivers Don’t Know Can Hurt — Everyone
Most new drivers are not well prepared to deal with the hazardous situations they’ll encounter on the road. It’s up to individual fleets and safety managers to give new drivers the training they need, not merely the training current law requires.
Here at SambaSafety, we’ve found that our safest fleets have an aggressive, frequent training schedule for inexperienced drivers. They treat training as an investment in their employees, not a box to be checked. Drivers are valuable assets to be nurtured, not costs to be minimized.
This strategy gives fleets an edge not only when it comes to safety, but also when it comes to hiring and keeping qualified drivers. With that in mind, here are some steps you can take to invest in new drivers to help them become well-rounded employees who stay with you for the long haul:
- Start new driver training immediately. As soon as a new driver accepts a job offer, get them up to speed with a healthy diet of basic online courses. Bonus: when you invest in ELDT online training, you can get the basics out of the way and get more out of your in-person classroom training and check rides.
- Assess every new driver. After putting drivers through online training, conduct a driving assessment for every new driver followed by a discussion about their skills. Based on your assessment, provide targeted training to ensure the driver is ready to represent your company. Follow up with monthly or quarterly training to reinforce the driver’s skills.
- Use data to determine training needs. Once your new drivers are on the road, use continuous driver monitoring to receive near real-time incident alerts (versus waiting for MVR pulls) so you can take immediate action following dangerous activity.
- Correct bad habits before they become headline news. Assign remedial training immediately following an incident. Note: this is a step you should take with all drivers, but especially inexperienced ones. Most incidents are minor, but if you don’t address their root causes, they can lead to bigger problems down the road.
- Lastly, communicate regularly. Analytics will only tell you so much. If you don’t know where a driver is struggling, you can’t help. Keep the lines of communication open. Check in with the driver regularly and provide opportunities for the driver to request training or assistance.
Maintaining a fleet of safety-conscious drivers is easier than you may realize. On Ramp online entry level driver training complies with FMCSA ELDT requirements and is easy to implement. Our online courses are updated whenever there’s a new rule or requirement, so you’ll never have to worry about editing or updating your training program.
On Ramp includes everything you need to comply with ELDT curriculum requirements. It also handles testing and record-keeping and comes with a flexible learning management system (LMS) that plays well with other systems. Click the button below and take the first step toward turnkey compliance and reduced risk.
Screenshot via CBC News YouTube
If you enjoyed this article, we recommend the following:
How to Hire Faster and Cut an Entire Day From Driver Onboarding
Everything Fleet Managers Need to Know About Entry Level Driver Training
Top 7 Questions We Hear About Our ELDT Training Curriculum