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The importance of training young drivers to prevent workplace injuries

 Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves
Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

Last year, a group called the Workforce Development Committee, formed by the American Trucking Associations (ATA) helped push a bill called the DRIVE-Safe Act in the Senate and the House of Representatives. If passed, this legislation would allow drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to haul freight interstate once they are 18 years old. Although 48 states allow drivers to haul freight within their borders after they turn 18, current federal regulations forbid them from moving that freight across state lines until they are 21.

If the legislation is passed by Congress, it would provide new job opportunities to potentially tens of thousands of young drivers. However, these drivers will have to be trained to meet the challenges of long-haul trucking. Aside from imparting the skills to be on the road for longer periods of time, it becomes essential for drivers to learn how to stay away from injuries while at it.

“I hope the legislation is passed by Congress, because we will continue to have a driver shortage over the next decade. And there’s also the high turnover rates in the industry that we will have to address. Creating attractive opportunities for our youth would help,” said John Post, co-founder and CPO at Worklete.

However, to train and retain young drivers in the workforce, fleets will have to ensure that drivers take care of themselves. “It takes effort for drivers to maintain their health – both physically and mentally. Drivers on the road don’t have access to great food, and many of them stop for a quick bite. I know drivers that have gained a tremendous amount of weight and have struggled to figure out a solution to not just reduce weight, but to stop their backs from getting stiff after long hours in the truck.”

When drivers have to physically exert themselves at pick-up or drop-off points, their unhealthy routine and often out-of-shape bodies may be injured. It is essential for drivers to understand the need to move efficiently and to maintain an even posture while working, because this will help keep them from incurring injuries.

“We humans exist in space, and if we spend time in good positions, we are less likely to get hurt. When you have drivers that are spending so much time seated in the cab, and then have to get out and do physically demanding work, it’s important that they understand how to maintain good positions,” said Post.

Post explained how he had seen thousands of injuries in which drivers hurt their shoulders while disconnecting the tandem or the glad-hands. These incidents must not be isolated, but looked at in a broader context – most of the injuries happen due to prolonged stress and as an accumulation of all the various instances of repetitive unsound movement that finally results in a catastrophic injury.

Post’s startup Worklete leverages technology to reach drivers across the U.S. and Canada and enables them to understand how to reduce workplace injuries by focusing on body movement and the way they interact with their environment. The company is seeking partnerships with vocational high schools in the U.S. that train youths to work in the transportation and logistics sector.

The first school that Worklete has partnered with is Patterson High School, where the startup trains young truck drivers to reduce work-related injuries and certifies students who complete the training. The company teaches students to perform industry-specific job functions like opening and closing a big rig’s hood, entering and exiting the cab, pulling the fifth wheel release handle and similar activities.

“Training students at vocational schools will help them to have a long and successful career in the industry, and they can also help train other team members to move properly as well,” said Post. “I think that as we’re talking about attracting these young drivers, it’s important that we continue to teach, reinforce and implement not just learning how to drive, but learning how to be able to do their jobs without injury.”

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  1. Laurie Zalac

    For years, I have decried the training a new driver receives. We need to view this as a vocation and improve the programs just as we would vocationally train any other profession such as welding or HVAC. In Europe, where my husband was trained, the training was a 2 year vocational course. He is one of the finest, safest drivers in the industry and I believe it starts with education and incab training. This may not be a very popular approach because it would slow down the driver’s start, but we can be assured that the safety dividends will pay off over time.

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