Driver Success: It’s in the Training

From slick highways to customer service to medical emergencies, here’s how some in the industry are helping their drivers be successful over the road with new technology and rigorous behind the wheel training.

In Connecticut, DATTCO training is done in the classroom and on the road.

“Our training is based on IMG protocols, but we’ve customized the training on several of the topics,” said Frank Baio, the company safety director. “For our security, counter-terrorism and active shooter training, we follow the Homeland Security Transportation guidelines. We’ve just had a regional SWAT team exercise using one of our motorcoaches so those responders can be familiar with a bus if there was a roadside emergency like an active shooter or a stand-off.”

There is a full-time training team whose duties include driving marked cars for driver observations. DATTCO drivers are also trained for inclement weather, natural disasters, blood-born pathogens, fire, and other evacuation emergencies. Their GPS system has messaging capabilities so that drivers can be in constant communication with dispatch.

“The GPS also has remote shut-down capabilities in the event of a hijacking or similar incident,” said Baio. “Our drivers are educated in ADA awareness coupled with our customer service so that they have a heightened degree of sensitivity to help our passengers.”

DATTCO has invested in their driver’s education by producing their own training videos on all subjects, including lift operations and tie-downs, in addition to having a simulator for training and refresher classes. The simulator puts drivers through their paces handling icy roads, tire blow-outs, and other adverse conditions.

“The simulator is a wonderful training tool. It is in one of our motorcoaches,” Baio explained. “We will bring this classroom on wheels, with a trainer, to any other carrier in the northeast for training.”

Becky Smith, Safety Training and Driver Education Manager for Indian Trails in Michigan, trains drivers in a six-week course.

“We aren’t just a charter service. We do line runs, campus shuttles and airport runs,” said Smith. “Indian Trails covers so many diverse aspects of the industry that we need to educate our drivers for every problem that could arise. Non-CDL training is offered, too, and then we spend a week to get them to pass their road test so they can start training with the CDL drivers.”

Based on a study of winter weather-related crashes from the National Highway Safety Administration, Michigan was recently ranked number one on the list of deadliest states for winter driving. That means training for inclement weather is key, no matter when a driver is hired.

If drivers train in June, Smith will take them out in a continuing education class once it snows to teach them stopping techniques and stress just how much slower they need to drive on slick roads. New drivers are also taken to the larger cities that Indian Trails frequently visits so that they are familiar with charter work and how to use maps.

“We discourage the use of GPS for many reasons, one is that they are wrong sometimes, or don’t have routes that are for commercial vehicles. Another reason is that we want our drivers to know mapping and how to re-route and get out of these cities if there is a terrorist attack or natural disaster. When I was driving, I wrote out my turn by turn directions. Charter groups are usually run by travel companies, which have a leader with a plan. Our drivers are trained to pick up their group at a pre-designated spot and head for the perimeter of the city before roads are shut down, especially if cell phones go down,” Smith advised.

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