Out on the road, you count on CDL drivers to make the right decision for the right reason. CDL driver safety training is a proven way to reduce risk, but some fleets choose to roll the dice — even as crash settlements soar into six and seven-digit figures. This is due in part to the lack of executive buy-in as well as overall company goals.

Sometimes though, the path to success can be muddled. Disagreements are often caused by a communication breakdown, not philosophical differences, and can include:

  • They know something I don’t know
  • I know something they don’t know
  • Something got garbled in our communication

→ Download Now: Six Questions to Ask When Implementing Driver Training

How to improve fleet safety with intent in gray areas

As a leader, it’s your job to communicate with intent and get everyone within your driver fleet on the same page. When drivers know the goal of their mission at-hand, they can make tactical decisions without having to rely on specific orders.

In the fast-paced world of trucking, CDL drivers face an ever-changing work environment: new routes, new technologies, new sites, new standard operating procedures. It’s impossible to make a list of every situation a driver may encounter and what they should do. If you tried, that list would be out of date within a month. Instead, you must communicate the overarching goal of safety and train drivers to make safe decisions.

For example, imagine a CDL driver arrives at a delivery site and sees there’s construction happening in the lot and at the dock. It’s chaotic, which causes the driver’s mental alarm bells go off. If a CDL driver is acting thoughtfully while conducting their job and is empowered to make tactical decisions, their thought process may look like this:

  1. Nothing we do is worth harming ourselves or others.
  2. Dock procedures are unsafe due to construction at the delivery site.
  3. Don’t just ignore number two but instead be safe and work with others to find a safer alternative.
  4. Once completed with the delivery, communicate with your leader so future drivers delivering to the same location are forewarned of the conditions and how they can best make a safe delivery.

How CDL driver safety training helps encourage good decision-making

Carriers and drivers have a shared commitment to safety. If you’re getting pushback from drivers about CDL driver safety training, it’s probably because of a communication failure.

Here’s what usually happens:

  • Carrier leaders use fleet safety data to identify safety issues and find opportunities for improvement. They use analytics to determine causal factors for crashes and choose appropriate training programs to address problems.
  • CDL drivers only know what can be seen from the seat of their truck, but they see it with great regularity and clarity. They too develop a sense for safety issues and crash causation. During the many hours they spend driving in solitude, they’ll fill in whatever hasn’t been explained to them by their leaders using ideas based upon their observations.

Disagreements occur because carrier leaders have information drivers don’t have and drivers have information leadership doesn’t have. These lapses aren’t on purpose, as most commercial drivers take safety very seriously and want to avoid incidents. Professional CDL drivers expect and deserve open, honest, transparent communications from their leaders. After all, leadership is leadership, no matter your industry.

How to launch a new training initiative

Start by finding common ground with your CDL drivers and remind them of your shared safety goals. Specifically describe problems your fleet is facing and explain how CDL drivers play an essential role in solving these problems.

Here is a suggested way to kick things off and get the conversation moving:

  1. Describe a scenario gone wrong from the drivers’ perspective and work to find common ground.
  2. Identify the root of the problem by asking drivers for their input.
  3. Use data to show the scope of the problem and focus on things drivers care about, making it personal for them.
  4. Present the training initiative as a turnkey solution to improve safety and achieve your shared goal, that everyone gets home safe.
  5. Ask for driver commitment to your shared goal and new initiative.

Doing the right thing means doing things right

Carriers and CDL drivers have a shared commitment to excellence. If CDL drivers fail to achieve excellence, people are injured or killed. That’s why everyone is on the same team in the high-stakes realm of commercial trucking and a sub-par performance simply isn’t “good enough.”

To do the right things right, a good leader will:

  • Unclog the lines of communications between leaders and drivers
  • Actively listen to drivers’ perspectives and recommendations
  • Proactively communicate both the what and the why behind each new safety or training initiative

How you can “do things right” for your fleet

“Doing the right thing” is a simple guiding principle with a powerful effect. “Doing things right” adds a challenge to pursue excellence in execution. In short, you can’t go wrong when you do the right things right.

Doing things right also means respecting the driver’s time and making CDL driver safety training convenient. Online truck driver safety training is convenient for drivers and cost-effective for carriers, but some are better than others.

To learn about the six questions you should ask when implementing CDL driver safety training, download our guide. 


If you enjoyed this article, we recommend the following: