Posted March 3, 2023

Continuing Training for Truckers

By Gigi Tino

A lot of people rely on you as a trucker, whether it’s your employer, your customers, or the consumers that buy the goods you haul. Your job is not an easy one; you are tasked with meeting strict deadlines while keeping yourself and fellow drivers safe. Whether you’re a rookie driver or have years of experience under your belt, training remains an important part of the job. Complacency can be your biggest enemy when it comes to your safety and performance! Ongoing training is crucial for refreshing and further developing your specialized skill set, understanding current regulations, and boosting your professional success.

More than a CDL

Training is changing for new drivers. Many companies, as well as governing bodies, have been seeking out younger job seekers to fill driver roles. While this is an appealing way to kickstart a career, the value of training cannot be understated for rookies. New entry-level training regulations from the FMCSA took effect earlier this year. These changes have been in the works by the Entry-Level Driver Training Advisory Committee for years with a goal to standardize driver education across the country. This regulation means that all driver schools must be registered under the FMCSA with the same proficiency standards. Although the CDL process is not changing significantly, entry-level drivers looking for a CDL must keep this in mind when looking for a school. Any program that is unregistered will not be able to offer them a CDL assessment upon completion.

Training doesn’t stop for rookies once they have their CDL. Most trucking companies provide continued training for entry-level drivers in their first months of employment. Rookies are often paired with a more experienced mentor to learn hands-on and apply their skills in various real scenarios under the guidance of a veteran. This is also a great opportunity for rookies to learn the specifics of the company, its policies, and equipment. If you are a rookie driver, take full advantage of mentorship training!

Keeping Up with Current Regulations

Entry-level drivers are not the only aspect of the trucking job seeing major changes. There is more to trucking than the challenges faced on the road; regulations are changing for truckers of all experience levels at both statewide and national levels. The logistics industry as a whole is dynamic and constantly evolving, and that means your trucking job is too. The FMCSA issues changes in regulations every year that directly impact truckers. For example, on January 6 of this year, the FMCSA clearinghouse became the sole query source for companies to identify employees and trucker job seekers with drug and alcohol violations. The FMCSA has also released a notice of intent to require speed limiters in all heavy-duty trucks; though this will not take effect for several years, it is an important update to keep an eye on! Keeping up with changes in industry regulations is not always easy when you are busy on the road. Participating in a refresher course often is an effective way to stay on top of changes in your trucking job.

Special Endorsements

Ongoing training can also include endorsements that open up even higher-paying and specialized trucking jobs. These jobs require extra training due to the nature of the goods transported and/or the equipment needed to transport them.

Examples of CDL endorsements include:

  • The Hazmat endorsement (H) permits you to drive hazardous materials. These materials can vary from household cleaning products to explosives. Hazmat training includes learning about security concerns, safety awareness with dangerous materials, and familiarization with the various materials considered hazardous.

  • The Tanker endorsement (N) certifies drivers to transport liquid and gas cargo. This training includes education on weight distribution and how the balance can affect the tanker vehicle and how it handles.
  • The Double/Triple Trailer endorsement (T) allows drivers to use double or triple trailers. Training with these extremely long and heavy vehicles is key to understanding the challenges it can present and how to safely handle them.

Staying Safe

One of the most important reasons to continue your trucker training and education is your safety! The National Safety Council estimated that about 46,020 people in the US passed away from motor vehicle accidents - a 9% increase over 2020. Truck drivers face a higher risk of accidents with their increased time on the road and operation of heavy machinery. However, many of these accidents are avoidable and are results of distracted driving or reactive driving. Yearly safety training, typically conducted by your company, is important for refreshing the defensive driving skills you learned when getting your CDL and boosting your confidence behind the wheel.

Technological Skills

Trucks and equipment are changing due to rapid technological advancements and an increased focus on environmental concerns. If you have received some new equipment, or your company is planning on updates, seek training to learn about any changes to your vehicle’s maintenance or road performance. Consistent and efficient maintenance are key to your safety and performance. Catching a problem early means saving you from a potential crash and saving your company and heavier repairs down the line! Companies also incorporate more technology into the job to assist truckers and routines. Some of these practices include electronic logging devices, collision mitigation technology, and dynamic routing. Though these may sound like daunting features to master, they are actually incredibly useful to your job and can boost your performance. For example, dynamic routing tech allows drivers to take multiple factors into account on their routes such as miles, traffic, weather, and fuel prices in order to find the most efficient route for their haul. Ongoing training keeps you at the forefront of technological advancement in the job. These are important hard skills that can lead you towards promotions, pay raises, and even new jobs when added to your resume.

Optimizing your Job Performance

Truck drivers play an important role in the relationship between carriers and their clients. Truckers are oftentimes the faces of the company, acting not only as the transporter but the in-person contact for the partnership. As a trucker, your performance is measured in your reliability and efficiency when it comes to meeting deadlines and safely delivering goods. Experience and education make a huge difference in avoiding mishaps on the road that can impact your performance, such as poor time planning or compliance issues. Truckers can combine their training with new regulations, vehicle updates, new technology, and skill refreshers to problem solve on-the-go and always meet the expectations of their jobs. Better job performance means chances for bonuses, pay raises, or even promotions.

Training doesn’t just stop once you get your CDL and your first trucking job. With a job in an ever-evolving industry, ongoing training is your best way to ensure your safety and your best performance.