Developing Effective Driver Training: Tips to Keep People Engage

Reprinted with permission from CarriersEdge, where this was originally published on April 5, 2023. For more insights and expert articles from this leading provider of online driver training, visit:

A strong job training program is a must-have for a safe and productive workforce. While many carriers use outside training to help teach specific skills or compliance requirements, packaged training can’t cover everything a driver needs to know.

Every company has its own policies and procedures that employees need to learn, as well as customer-specific requirements and local details that drivers need to be comfortable with. If you’re responsible for creating driver training to cover these areas, you know it can be tricky to find the balance between covering all the material sufficiently and keeping it interesting. In this article we’ll review some tips on course development to help make your driver training more effective. We’ll cover:

  • Course structure and why the order of information matters;
  • How to make training interesting for drivers;
  • The importance of stories and interactive features; and
  • The difference between active and passive voice.

Course Structure

As a first step when building a course, it’s critical to organize and present the material in a way that makes sense to the driver. This might be in chronological order or a pattern that most closely matches a driver’s actual day, but the course should always have a natural flow.

Start by doing some deep-dive research on the subject you want to teach and compiling all the information that needs to be covered. Once you’ve figured out what needs to be included, arrange it in a logical order. In nearly every case, that means starting with a general overview of the main concepts and an explanation of why they matter. Only after that foundation is established can you dive into the deeper parts of the subject – the audience needs to understand the basics and why they matter before they get buried in the details.

Once the basics are outlined, present the content in an order that matches how drivers will use it. For example, if you’re creating a course on how to secure a customer’s cargo, start with an overview of the requirements, then the steps they must complete when they arrive at the customer site, followed by what they should do once the cargo is loaded onto the trailer.

Make Training Interesting for Drivers

If you’ve seen the classic film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, you probably remember the classroom scene where students are dying of boredom as their teacher drones on about tariffs in the 1930s. The teacher keeps trying to get them to talk (“Anyone? Anyone?”) but their eyes have glazed over, and no one responds.

While drivers might not doze off quite like this in training, people generally find it harder to understand information when they can’t make a personal connection to it. To help them make that connection, clarify in each section why the information is important and how it will help them in their jobs.

Including statistics in a course can also make it more interesting and help reinforce the points you’re trying to make. However, stats can get old fast so make sure you’re prepared to update them as necessary to keep your content current. (If regular updates aren’t realistic because of time or resource constraints, try using more generalized references.)

Tell a Story and Use Interactive Features

There are several ways to jazz up your training material and make it more engaging for drivers.

One way is to incorporate stories or real-life examples into your courses. Including a simple storyline that helps personalize and explain the reasons for the training can help make content more relatable. For example, to help teach drivers what they should do when they feel unsafe, our course on personal security includes a storyline with a character who is a threat to the driver. The story and the character take an abstract concept and turn them into something that’s easier for the audience to visualize and follow along with, which helps make the content stickier.

You can also include interactive quizzes to help break up content and give drivers a chance to review what they’ve learned. Short quizzes work well for both online and classroom training. Depending on the course, you can use different types of questions to keep the quizzes interesting. These include:

  • Multiple choice;
  • Fill in the blank;
  • Matching questions; and
  • Scenario-based exercises.

Active Voice and Regulatory Course Challenges

Use active rather than passive voice when writing a course, especially for content on regulations. Presenting regulations word for word can be problematic because they’re often written in passive voice, which makes it hard to tell which responsibilities are the driver’s and which are the carrier’s.

For example, a vehicle inspection course should clearly define who is responsible for reporting or resolving a problem with a component. Saying “A driver is responsible for reporting X” (active) rather than “X must be reported” (passive) makes it clear who should be doing what. Otherwise, the driver may think the company is responsible, which can lead to a violation. Simplifying the language overall can also help make the material clearer for drivers, since regulations are often written in complicated legal language that can be confusing.

Another issue with regulations is the glossary. Because a glossary in a statute must be comprehensive it will include many terms that aren’t relevant to the material you’re teaching. Make sure you’ve done the research to know which key terms are important to drivers and focus on those in your course.

Create Job Aids or ‘Cheat Sheets’

For drivers on the job, create cheat sheets they can quickly refer to for help when performing a task. Drivers need to keep track of a lot of information to perform their jobs safely and may need an occasional refresher depending on their regular duties. A checklist or guidebook on cargo securement, vehicle inspection or checking tires and brakes can help drivers confirm they have performed all required steps. Keeping a hard copy in the cab is also easier than searching for information online, and the driver already knows it’s accurate.

Creating effective training isn’t easy, but these tips can help improve the final product without a lot of extra work. Experimenting with the format, content and delivery of your courses is the best way to determine what works best for your company and drivers.

To learn more about how we develop our courses at CarriersEdge, check out our webinar that dives deeper into this topic.

About CarriersEdge

CarriersEdge is a leading provider of online driver training for the trucking industry. With a comprehensive library of safety and compliance courses, supported by advanced management and reporting functions, CarriersEdge helps over 2000 fleets train their drivers without sacrificing miles or requiring people to come in on weekends. CarriersEdge is also the creator of the Best Fleets to Drive For program, an annual evaluation of the best workplaces in the North American trucking industry, produced in partnership with Truckload Carriers Association.