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Training of Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers, CTBS Synthesis 5, by Loren Staplin, Kathy H. Lococo, Lawrence E. Decina, Gene Bergoffen (Transportation Research Board, 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20418; ph. 202-334-2934; http://www.national-academies.org/trb/bookstore) (2004)


A number of recommended practices for improving training effectiveness for entry-level CMV drivers are supported by this synthesis.

Although this research synthesis identified specific tools and techniques that, if broadly implemented, appear likely to yield safety benefits, there are overarching needs and requirements to promote the effectiveness of driver training programs that cannot be overlooked. There is an urgent need for standardized curricula for entry-level driver training and remedial training for problem drivers. And, it is equally critical—whether it comes about through regulation, through initiatives by motor carriers and insurers, or through a combination of actions—that it is not possible for a driver whose qualifications are limited to completion of a course designed solely to coach the student to pass the commercial driver’s license (CDL) exam, to assume sole responsibility for a heavy vehicle.

One sometimes overlooked factor is the extent to which training program effectiveness depends upon the qualifications and commitment of the trainer, regardless of the particular tools available to support training program activities. These individuals, whether employed by schools or carriers, must instill in entry-level drivers not only the requisite knowledge and skills that make them able to perform everyday driving tasks, but also a ‘safety culture’ that they will take with them

when they have sole responsibility as a heavy vehicle operator. Certainly, the trainer must know everything that the trainee is expected to know and have the skills—oral and written communications, listening, platform skills, and patience—to impart this knowledge effectively. Trainers who are highly motivated, with 2 or more years of hands-on driving experience, who are provided with proper certification and recertification as needed to meet a given carrier’s training goals, and are compensated in proportion to their essential contributions are paramount to meeting future demands for a safe, stable, and productive workforce in the trucking and motor coach industries.

Finally, the overall commitment of an organization to finishing training for entry-level drivers and refresher training for experienced drivers will dictate how training programs are structured and what resources are allocated to them. As noted by a regional less-than-truckload (LTL) company participating in the present industry survey, “There is no substitute for selection of the right individual, one-on-one training, evaluation, and observation. The organization needs a strong safety culture at all levels of the spectrum and continual emphasis on highway safety.” Recognition of drivers’ skills, through rodeos and similar events, and tangible rewards for their accomplishments in meeting safe performance milestones similarly reinforce a new driver’s understanding that the company is serious about its training programs.

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