Training Steers Fleets

SUCCESSFUL FLEET MANAGERS must understand safety, regulatory and compliance issues; have a financial background; and integrate new technology into existing operational systems. However, while businesses invest significant amounts of money in transportation equipment and fleet operations, management-training funds often are limited or non-existent.

There are many challenges to providing proper training. For example, traveling to a training facility can be expensive, and it often is impossible for fleet managers to leave ongoing job responsibilities.

But many educational resources are available. Online classes and distance-learning courses can reduce training costs and time because courses can range from only a few hours to a few months, and fleet managers do not have to leave their offices to attend.

The Institute of Logistical Management (ILM), Burlington, N.J., and the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA), Alexandria, Va., are two agencies that offer fleet managers distance-learning courses in transportation and logistics, motor carrier operations, business logistics principles, hazardous materials compliance, transportation management and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. The TCA also allows managers to dial into Truckload Academy teleconferences or use interactive CD-ROMs for learning.

Larger companies may find in-house training a viable educational option. Several educational resource companies will create a personal training program, develop a curriculum and materials and obtain speakers. Session lengths can vary.

In-house training has advantages in team building, employee networking, reducing travel costs and offering training that parallel a business' corporate culture. Also, in-house training can apply to all employees — from fleet managers to drivers and mechanics.

Certification is another avenue for training; it offers recognition for newly learned skills and designates a manager as an expert in his field. The ILM, American Society of Transportation & Logistics, Arlington, Va., and North American Transportation Management Institute (NATMI), Broomfield, Colo., all offer certifications.

ILM offers a Certified Logistics Practitioner course. The American Society of Transportation & Logistics provides a Certified in Transportation and Logistics program. NATMI's certification programs measure education, experience and expertise, such as director of safety, trainer of commercial drivers and safety supervisor.

Companies should allocate some funds to train their drivers. Unfortunately, there are not enough qualified drivers to handle current, much less future needs. According the to the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Department of Transportation, approximately $30 trillion worth of cargo will be transported in the United States by 2020, compared with $9 trillion today. By 2020, tonnage will increase by nearly 70 percent above the current levels of 15 billion tons.

For example, training drivers in customer service benefits a company because drivers interact with clients. Driver training also can incorporate safety or regulatory compliance issues, such as pre- and post-trip inspections or road safety.

When budgeting for training, companies should expect to pay between $60 to $100 for a one- or two-hour online course. One-day regional seminars are approximately $100 to $200 per employee. Distance-learning programs through home study can total between $400 and $600. A three-day training seminar or industry conference can range from $600 to $900 per employee. Custom training prices typically are more expensive but depend on the type of education participants receive, the format and how much training is needed. However, the benefit a company receives from training can exceeds the costs.

Fleet managers who have completed continuing education courses earned an average of $5,000 more per year, according to recent research. But more importantly, employees can see an employer cares about their personal development and become more valuable assets.