Good to Go

Promoting safe driving habits through orientation and initial training.

So, now you've found the right candidates and weeded out drivers with issues that may compromise safety. What next? The third key to driver safety involves the orientation and initial training process.

Regardless of a new hire's prior waste industry experience, that driver is still new to the waste company that hired him or her. Each company has its own unique way of doing business and expectations of its drivers. New drivers need to know exactly what is expected of them from a performance and safety standpoint. The orientation and initial training process is where these expectations should be conveyed.

Any new driver orientation will, of course, include a variety of human resource issues (benefits, time off, etc.) that don't directly relate to safety. After these items have been covered, the orientation should proceed to the waste company's work rules and safety policies. A written copy of these should be given to all newly hired drivers. Make sure trainees are given sufficient time to review the rules and policies and ask questions about them. They should then sign a statement indicating that they understand and will obey the work rules and safety policies.

With the HR issues, work rules and safety polices covered, the orientation process can move on to other areas, including the paperwork and dispatch procedures that are unique to any given waste company. Additionally, new drivers should be introduced to the vehicles they will be driving, communications equipment and company facilities.

While the orientation process may only last a day or two, the initial training process can last anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of months, depending on a new hire's prior experience and the complexity of the equipment he or she will be operating. For instance, a new hire with 10 years experience driving a rear-load truck may still take several weeks to master the operation of an automated sideloader. Additionally, some new hires with years of prior waste industry experience may bring some poor driving habits that were learned or tolerated at a previous job, necessitating some new training.

There is no set rule for how long the initial training process should last. Rather, management should concern itself with setting measurable levels of driving and operational skills while promoting safe behavior behind the wheel and on the job. The training process needs to be documented using a checklist comprised of the skills and safety procedures required for the position. Each item on the checklist should be initialed by the driver trainer or supervisor once the new hire has demonstrated competency.

This documented training process also should be used when a current employee will be transferring to a different job function (i.e. a rear-load driver becoming a roll-off truck driver). Documentation of the driver training process should become part of the driver's personnel file, because it shows that the waste company has taken reasonable steps to put a safe and competent driver on the road.
Bruce A. Hooker
R.F. Mattei & Associates of CA Insurance Services
Sacramento, Calif.