What’s the key to success for a commercial fleet? Safe, reliable and productive drivers. Your drivers’ performance touches every part of the company: public perception, operational efficiency, and especially revenue and profit.
A few fleets still just hire and fire hoping to luck into good drivers. But more executives today are investing in training to raise standards across the fleet. They do it because they can show measurable ROI from training. They believe, as I do, that training is leadership. A leader’s job is to get a person to do the job in the right way at the right time for the right reasons. Training is one tool a leader can use to get this done.
Still, it’s hard to change the status quo, and harder still to change the mind of an entrenched executive. It begs the question I hear from colleagues often: “how do I show the value of training to my executive team?”
You cannot assume executives will intuitively see the value of training nor attribute the company’s success to your training efforts, so let’s create a battle plan.
Connect Driver Training with Success
I received a call several years ago from an associate at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). He started the conversation by asking, “why do you train drivers?”
With my background as an Airborne/Ranger qualified Infantry Officer in the U.S. Army, the answer seemed obvious to me. I can only imagine what would have happened if they had said to me, “here’s a parachute, there’s the airplane—good luck!” I wouldn’t be writing this article, that’s for sure.
My military career provided me with a useful three-legged stool to consider strategy: ends, ways, and means. Training is essential to defining the way in which we achieve our tactical and strategic goals.
Why do we train drivers? Because driver performance has a direct impact on strategic goals and tactical objectives, including:
- Regulatory compliance
- Productivity (a proxy for profitability)
- Fuel economy
- Customer service - drivers are the face of your company
Only when you connect the dots between driver training and your company’s goals will you get the attention of fleet executives. These men and women are held accountable for company performance and perk up their ears when they hear words like “profitability,” or “productivity.”
If you’re not getting the support you need, use the three-step plan below to sell driver training to your executive team.
Selling Training: Your 3 Step Plan of Action
STEP ONE: The Persuasive Power of Facts and Figures
Every carrier has finite resources — they can’t do everything. When faced with competing requirements, decision-makers will normally choose the option with the highest expected ROI (return on investment).
Buying a truck with better MPG is an easy decision because lower fuel consumption equals higher profits. Decision-makers can draw a direct connection between that capital investment and their organizational goals
By comparison, the value of driver incident prevention training may seem less clear. Executives understand training can prevent incidents, but how many? They don’t like to hear “some” or “a lot.” When ROI is unclear, the easiest answer is “no.”Put yourself in the mindset of each decision-maker and craft your message to highlight “what’s in it for them.” Let’s use the company COO as an example. These efficiency-focused executives want to invest in programs that support their goals and corporate responsibilities, which typically include:
- Increase revenue per truck day
- Improve driver retention
- Match available capacity to the demand
- Improve regulatory compliance without increasing cost
- Minimize non-revenue generating “empty” miles
- Manage risk
Using the list above, craft a value statement that speaks to the COO’s interests and goals. For example:
Why Training Is Valuable — to a COO
Incidents take drivers, trucks, and capital offline. Safety training and proactive initiatives are proven to keep drivers on the road. Safe drivers also get better MPG.
Use company data or industry statistics to reinforce your statement. If you can’t get hard data, go talk to your colleagues and ask for reasonable assumptions or estimates.
For the COO, you might include:
- Billed ratios
- Driver turnover due to safety issues
- Average hours a truck was offline due to a crash
- Average days a driver was offline due to a crash
- Cost of back office effort to expedite loads after incidents
I can’t emphasize this enough: one message doesn’t fit all. If you want company stakeholders to support heavy duty truck driver training initiatives, you must tailor your pitch to the specific goals, responsibilities, and values of each member of the leadership team.
Our executive messaging worksheet will give you a head-start. It’s pre-filled with the goals and responsibilities of different executives including the CEO, CFO, COO/VP of Operations, and VP/Director of Safety. It also includes ideas for how to describe the value of your proposal, and statistics you can gather to drive the value proposition home.
After looking it over, you’ll understand how to frame your proposal to other decision-makers in your organization such as the Chief Information Officer, Chief Administrative Officer, VP/Director of Risk Management, VP/Director of Maintenance, and others.
STEP TWO: Strategic One-On-One Conversations
We’ve established why one message doesn’t fit all when seeking support from different stakeholders. Another common misstep is presenting to the executive team collectively. When all the decision-makers are together, you’ll be outnumbered; and one strong personality can quickly voice opposition to your proposal that may sway the leadership team.
- Build support by briefing each stakeholder individually
- Their time is valuable. Be crisp and to the point when communicating the value of your proposal - keeping in mind their unique responsibilities and goals
- Use their language (not yours)
- At the end of your one-on-one, ask for their support, or ask what you can do to ensure their support
This approach takes time and patience but pays off in the end. When you’ve spoken to each decision-maker separately, and set the pre-conditions for support, you’re ready to seal the deal by presenting to the entire executive team.
STEP THREE: The Moral Imperative
By drawing a clear relationship between safe drivers and company goals, you’ll level the playing field between safety training and other competing programs.
Money talks! Make it say something that supports your safety program. Create a spreadsheet showing how much your fleet spends on preventive programs in one column, and reactive expenses in another column. Reactive expenses may include:
- Claims settlement
- Post-crash litigation
- Increased insurance premiums
- Workers comp claims
- Driver turnover due to safety issues
In my experience, most carriers have never done this calculation! I promise you that it will be eye-opening for your executive team. Be sure to point out how savings can be tracked year over year. Now you’re speaking Executiv-ese.
The executive team meeting is also an ideal time to present the moral cost of inaction. Talk about the number of injuries prevented, lives saved and expensive claims avoided. Use the moral imperative to re-frame capital expenditure requests and tip executive opinions to favor an investment in safety.
Online heavy duty truck driver training is the most cost-effective way to implement safety training, making it a worthwhile investment when viewed through any lens. Connect with a fleet safety training consultant online or by phone (360-576-5976 option 4) to learn more about ITI's online training plans and custom online training options.
This article is Part I of a two-part series. Read Part II How Fleet Managers Convince Truck Drivers to Embrace Safety Training.