Airline pilots must complete regular refresher training to ensure that your life is safe in their hands.

For each different type of plane that they fly, they must be certified to ensure that they are aware of all of the controls, how they work, when to use them and where they are located within the cockpit.

Many other professionals – surgeons, accountants, engineers, must belong to a professional association or institute, and demonstrate that they have undertaken formal skills training, refreshers, or other forms of recognised professional development throughout each year in order to retain their membership. Membership which is vital to their credentials and allows them to continue operating – the equivalent of a driving license to a truck driver.

Yet, when a driver trainer singles out a truck driver for an observed drive, or a skills refresher, it is almost universally perceived as punishment.

The average age of an NZ truck driver is 43, and the average experience driving trucks is 18 years. Obviously to get to this average, there are also many drivers aged 40-60+ meaning it could be up to 30 years since they had any formal training (or at least a few pointers) in how to drive. And yet, look at how trucks have changed in that time. That’s like taking a pilot certified on a DC3 and throwing him the keys to the new Air NZ Dreamliner that has just arrived in Auckland.

Truck drivers are professionals. It isn’t everyone who can pilot 40-50 tons of truck around our road network, work up to 70 hours per week and come back for more week after week, year after year.

Our drivers deserve recognition. They deserve time off the job to learn about new technology. They will be much safer and less stressed if they are introduced to a new truck and the driver aids that the manufacturer has spent years developing and perfecting.

We are doing our drivers a gross disservice by NOT offering them routine skills refreshers and NOT drawing on GPS stats, customer feedback fuel and maintenance bills to provide them with regular feedback on their performance.

The new ACC Fleet Saver programme requires this commitment to driver ongoing development. The audit standard requires “Evidence that ongoing (internal or external) training is provided to drivers at least every 12 months.”
Generation Y – the current 20 something year olds, and ripe to obtain their Class 4 and 5 licenses right now – are the generation of instant gratification. The row of green lights on the dash signifying that the truck is being driven well, or the challenge of working to resolve an amber or red light that reflects a poor decision and created a harshbraking or cornering event… this sort of feedback works really well for many of this age. Knowing that they are doing their job well, not just receiving a pay packet, is a critical factor in retaining this new breed of driver.

Which leads me to a question which is increasingly poignant in our industry:
“What if we train them and they leave?” to which the trueist response remains… “What if we don’t and they stay?”

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