Maybe you’re a fleet manager looking to improve your existing coaching program. Perhaps you’re an employee proposing a new driver training initiative to company management. Or you could be a veteran behind the wheel who enjoys informally coaching young drivers. Whatever your situation, there are major incentives for wanting to set up or improve a driver education program. After all, safe and efficient driving decreases fuel and maintenance costs while protecting drivers and the company’s reputation. For all those reasons and more, Commercial Truck Trader has put together 9 tips for improving your driver coaching program:
1. Establish Clear Policies.
All coaching guidelines and procedures need to be clearly established and communicated to all coaches and drivers. It is equally important that those policies are then closely followed. Inconsistency or favoritism can undermine the credibility of the coaching program. To increase support for a driver training program in your fleet, have coaches and drivers participate in defining the coaching policies you’ll use.
2. Communicate Frequently.
Maximizing performance and safety should be part of the company culture. Achieving that goal requires consistent coaching communication. Ongoing, timely communication helps drivers be receptive to coaching. Driver education should be provided
- when onboarding new employees
- in response to incidents, and
- with routinely scheduled meetings.
3. Be Proactive.
Coaches shouldn’t obsess over every little detail of a driver’s performance. But if it looks like a problematic pattern is forming, you definitely need to get ahead of the potential issue. Proactively talking with the driver can prevent a full-fledged driving bad habit. Common incidents that may require a proactive response include:
- Near misses
- Distracted driving
- Seat belt non-compliance
- Harsh braking and cornering
- Rolling through stop signs or red lights
4. Treat Drivers with Respect.
Drivers put in long hours on the road and take on the risk of physical harm if an accident occurs, and for that they deserve the respect of coaches and fleet managers. Coaches should express gratitude for drivers and demonstrate respect for them on a personal level. That validation helps drivers respect coaches and buy-in to the process.
5. Make Feedback Specific and Personal.
Feedback should be targeted to individual drivers and their specific behaviors. Use clear examples whenever possible. If the cab is equipped with a camera, use video clips to be even more precise. Attempt to personalize safety messages whenever possible. For example, all drivers know they should avoid distracted driving, but it becomes personal when you ask how they’d adapt if their family was in the car ahead of them.
6. Use Formal and Informal Coaching.
Coaching does not always have to involve a formal sit-down meeting. In fact, much of the driver training experience should involve casual one-on-one conversations. Incidents that are common to all drivers, like harsh braking, are perfect for a more relaxed discussion. These informal moments are key to developing a supportive company culture, maintaining consistent communication, and being proactive.
7. Incorporate Peer Reviews.
Feedback from an administrator is good. Feedback from someone with previous driving experience is better. Feedback from someone who is currently out on the road and is personally familiar with the modern-day driving experience is best. Drivers will quickly relate to a coach who’s out on the road each week, and those coaches will know all the relevant issues to discuss.
8. Balance the Positive and Negative.
Constant criticism will demoralize drivers and turn them against the coaching program. By receiving both positive and negative feedback, drivers will feel they’re receiving a fair evaluation and will be more responsive to the coaching. Recognizing all the things drivers do right helps improve driver morale and encourages them to continue to put those good behaviors into practice on the road.
9. Share the Rewards.
Driver education improves fleet performance, which helps the company’s bottom line. Safer and more efficient driving improves fuel efficiency while lowering maintenance, repair, and accident-compensation costs. Drivers should share in those rewards. A portion of savings due to improved fleet performance should be put toward a driver bonus program, which will further boost driver buy-in, job satisfaction, and retention.
Driver coaching is a win-win scenario for everyone involved, helping companies protect the fleet’s profitability and helping drivers stay safe and improve their skills. We hope our tips for improving your driver coaching program are helpful to you and your business. And if you’re looking for your next work truck or van, be sure to check out all the vehicles available for-sale nationwide at CommercialTruckTrader.com.
About the Author
Ethan Smith is a Content Curator for Trader Interactive, serving the commercial brands Commercial Truck Trader, Commercial Web Services, and Equipment Trader. Ethan believes in using accessible language to elevate conversations about industry topics relevant to commercial dealers and their buyers.