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Training drivers post-incident, in nice small nuggets

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A confluence of several trends, including rising punitive damage payouts, short attention spans and technological capabilities can be seen a new post-accident training program rolled out in recent weeks by Instructional Technologies Inc.

The idea is to take a driver who has been involved in anything that could be classified as an “incident” and give them immediate post-incident training. But since drivers can be on the road for weeks at a time, it’s not as if the person behind the wheel can be brought in to sit in a classroom. So the idea is to bring the training to the driver where he or she may be, according to Aaron Purvis, the CTO of ITI.

“You have a driver out there on the road for two weeks, he does something wrong and what does the company do?” Purvis said in an interview with FreightWaves. “Talk to him two weeks later when he gets back to the office?”

The problem is enhanced by telematics and all their piles of data that shows the incidents of hard braking, tailgating, or any of a number of activities that a trucking company doesn’t want to hear about it if it ends up in court. If there is evidence that such behaviors went on, and the company in court did nothing in response despite telematics data that showed there was a problem, the end result in a jury verdict is only going to be made worse for the carrier.

What ITI has done is taken its longer training courses and reduced them down to individual post-incident training sessions that Purvis called an “inoculation” after the incident. “Our content for the post-accident and post-incident training is basically a derivative of our full content, and is designed to be packaged together on the basis of the most common incidents,” Purvis said. The training in the new offering can be viewed on a cell phone, tablet or laptop. Purvis said the more in-depth instructions that ITI now offers are also available online.

Among the types of behaviors that have their own package: avoiding fixed objects; intersections; hours of service; winter driving; right turns and left turns (each with their own unit); driver distractions; and speed management. There’s more.  

Purvis said ITI is constantly receiving subpoenas to supply information in litigation regarding the safety training that a trucking company implemented. And the questions aren’t just around pre-incident; they’re about post-incident as well. “Training does come into play in litigation,” Purvis said. “They will want to know, what questions did you ask (in training) and what did this driver affirmatively answer, and even after the accident what were they trained on?”

The smaller condensed post-accident training is designed also to replace what might have been the policy previously: a phone call from a dispatcher or manager. Past practice might also have included bringing a driver back into the terminal. “The managers are not necessarily trained to remediate drivers,” Purvis said. “They don’t always understand human behaviors.” The short training program is designed to take care of that.

When asked if growing “short attention spans” were at play in designed the series, Purvis said “yes, exactly right.”

Laura McMillan, ITI’s vice president of training and development, said they believe the program “provides a way to close the gap on liability by making sure training is available right away.” “If we get to them immediately with a short dose, then we have that on the back end,” she said.

 The rollout of this program comes as the trucking industry has been rocked by two recent jury verdicts. One is the $101 million verdict against FTS International, an oilfield services company, believed to be the biggest ever levied against a trucking company. The second is an $80 million verdict against Werner Enterprises, where an $80 million verdict was levied against the company when—according to one view of what happened—its truck was run into by a pickup truck that crossed over a median strip.

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John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.