SNBC puts newly hired drivers through regimented training program
Oct 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Charles E Wilson
Each class typically starts with a 14-station evaluation of driver dexterity. Developed and administered by a third-party therapist group, the screening helps show whether a driver has the physical ability to perform safely on the job.
Instructors also issue personal protective equipment (PPE) to new hires at the outset of the training. A large inventory of equipment is on hand and instructors have plenty of experience ensuring the correct sizing and fit for each driver.
The PPE program at the training center goes well beyond helping driver select the right sizes. Instructors also run tests to ensure that the equipment performs as required. “We do tests on PPE whenever we can, and we post the results for our students to examine,” Torres says. “We're always looking for better equipment.”
Next comes classroom instruction on a wide range of topics, including hazardous materials handling, hazard characteristics, company policies, and federal and state transportation regulations. Hours of service get plenty of attention.
Classroom time also is spent with the video-equipped driving simulator, one of the newest generation units on the market. SNBC has four simulators — one at each training center.
“The driving simulator is good for decision-making in a controlled environment,” says Kendall Rothman, classroom instructor at the Reserve training facility. “The driver can make mistakes without endangering anyone's safety, and he can tell us what he is seeing during each exercise.”
Loading and unloading
At least two days are devoted to the loading/unloading simulators arranged in such a way that they resemble an obstacle course. Many drivers probably feel like they have been put through an obstacle course by the time they finish working on the simulators.
“We really put drivers through the paces during this part of the training,” Torres says. “Our trainers can create all sorts of problems with the piping and storage tanks,” Torres says. “We let drivers make mistakes. They can overfill tanks and blow lines.
“There is a lot of role playing, and we put students through hazardous and non-hazardous scenarios. A driver may have to troubleshoot the entire system. Drivers have to trace the lines to determine which one goes to the correct tank, and they have to learn to ask the customer for help. Through all of it, they are wearing their PPE.”
At the end of the two-week course, drivers face what is essentially a comprehensive final exam. It starts with a 30-mile road test with an instructor in a tractor-trailer rig. The last half of the exam is a full-scale drill through the unloading simulators, which must be completed in less than four hours.
Only then will SNBC assign a new-hire to a tractor and send him out on the road.
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