Transport America has always put a premium on going the extra mile to train its drivers based on the principles and values that the company holds dear, such as safety and empowering drivers to be the captains of their ship.
Now, according to Rich Campbell, the company’s Driver Apprenticeship and Orientation Manager, Transport America is re-engineering its orientation and training program to make it easier for drivers to access information with the latest available mobile and web technology, all with the intent of engaging drivers at a higher level to increase their knowledge and understanding of driving the Transport America way.
“We’re increasing the use of technology to be more efficient and give our drivers more options to work at their own pace, while still boosting their engagement levels,” says Campbell.
Campbell has been at Transport America for six months, but has been in the trucking industry for 13 years. In the 1980s, Campbell entered the trucking industry and drove professionally for five years, then, he went into the Navy where he served for 20 years, primarily in the areas of training and operations.
“My experience in the Navy has helped me in advancing training operations here,” says Campbell.
He went back to driving in 2009, and then became a truck driving school Director for three years. After receiving a bachelor’s degree, Campbell moved to Minnesota, working as a safety manager and then began his career at Transport America while completing his MBA at Excelsior College in New York.
Campbell found the importance in driver training and decided to put his vast knowledge into focusing on increasing efficiency of the training program.
“We’re changing our training programs to embrace both in-person training – within a classroom and behind the wheel instruction – and web-based technology delivered with mobile devices,” says Campbell. “We call it a hybrid model that better meets the needs of our drivers.”
So, for example, when a new driver joins Transport America and goes to one of its two orientation facilities in either Indianapolis or Birmingham, Transport America is taking out all of the big computer screen monitors that were set up in a typical classroom style, and replacing those with tablets.
“With this technology, we can reconfigure the classroom setting. Drivers can sit in a horseshoe style with their mobile tablets. And now, they can have a better interactive discussion with one of our instructors or with others, instead of looking at the back of someone’s head,” says Campbell. “We know that this will be more engaging and it will help our drivers learn better.”
But learning isn’t just limited to classroom time.
Transport America has contracted with Vertical Alliance, a company that provides a web-based truck driving training platform with more than 750 video lessons. In addition, Transport America can load it’s own videos on the video learning platform.
“With this system, our drivers can learn at their own pace,” Campbell says, “and we can see who has logged onto the training system, which allows us to better understand where all of our drivers are at in their orientation process, as well as keeping up with ongoing training throughout their career with Transport America.”
Campbell says this video training platform also can be used as part of the company’s ongoing commitment to share safe driving tips and reminders to its drivers and staff.
“It’s so important to have the web-based training option because people learn at different paces,” Campbell says. “And, in different ways. Some drivers learn better in a classroom where an instructor is lecturing to them. Others, with a driver instructor. And still others, through video and other content delivered through the web.”
“While we certainly want to increase our efficiency so we can get drivers out on the road faster,” Campbell continues, “it’s more important to connect with a driver so what they’re learning becomes more deeply internalized. That’s how we create drivers who drive more safely.”
While state and federal regulations require certain types of training for truck drivers, which all trucking companies must comply with, for Transport America, the goal is to take orientation and training to a higher level.
“We can’t stress enough how important it is for drivers to be continuously learning. Drivers must avoid complacency,” says Campbell. “When it comes to safety and to mastering the art of being a professional truck driver, there is always something new to learn. It’s this mindset that is going to help us changing trucking for the better.”