Since Auckland-based heavy transport, driver training provider Commercial Road Skills introduced online study at the beginning of 2017; the system is proving a huge success.

Commercial Road Skills general manager Tony Newth says the investment of time and finance into the online training system has more than reaped benefits for the company and its customers.

"We are using online training very efficiently in-house for large groups of trainee heavy vehicle operators, it's working out very well as we are combining the platform with input from an experienced trainer, " says Newth.

"We also offer home study for those trainees who were struggling to keep up with their peers, so they found the ease of access to extra resources online was beneficial to completing their training," he says.

"The training modules are designed to minimise the time needed for people to be away from work and in a classroom, so it is efficient for both parties," says Newth.

“There is still time required in class so students can ask those tricky questions and we can help them personally with those complicated parts of our different industry,” he says

"It was also important to redevelop the material to ensure it is suitable for people with low literacy and numeracy because many students often do not speak English as their primary language, Newth says.

“Students seem to like the online process more; it appears they pick up the information much quicker than by using other forms of study," he says.

“We split the course content up so that modules may be learnt online and then there is an in-class writing assessment as required by the New Zealand Transport Agency," says Newth

“We’ve found this method of online delivery can reduce in-class time by up to 50%,” he says.

Major training initiative

Newth says the first half of 2017 was a busy time for Commercial Roadskills as the company took on a major training initiative for a new client who had won a significant contract under the Public Transport Operating Model (PTOM).

"Initially all the trainees were recruits to passenger transport services, and then later we added more drivers into the mix who were upgrading their licences from a Class 2 to a Class 4 passenger service licence," says Newth.

"We needed to impress upon the trainees, not only the importance of understanding the material they are learning, but also the technology of the vehicles, and the on-road interaction with other vehicles and humans," he says.

"These trainees were going onto taking charge of a large heavy vehicle with passengers onboard, so it's imperative that they understand how to operate it safely, efficiently, and economically," says Newth.

"We focused on teaching the new bus operators about safely positioning the vehicle when on the road, as well as forward scanning to anticipate issues, particularly stale green lights, he says.

"We also found some of the new drivers weren't aware of how to use ABS brakes correctly, as well as the correct use of the parking brake at intersections, and also being aware of roll back with AMT transmissions," says Newth.

He says while heavy vehicles such as buses and trucks are becoming more car-like to drive, and can foot it with passenger cars regarding speed and efficient braking, they are still much larger, heavier and have a higher centre of gravity so drivers need to allow additional room for manoeuvring and stopping in often tight spaces, lanes and all traffic conditions.

Embracing training as part of health and safety culture

The sea change in obligations under the new regulations have seen the transport industry move away from "tick and flick." to embracing training as being an active part of a health and safety culture. 

"I am encouraged by the industry's move to embrace health and safety by ensuring everyone understands the reasons for and the need for quality training and good outcomes," says Newth.

He says the transport industry is taking an active interest in third party suppliers such as Commercial RoadSkills to ensure that they are meeting the required standards, but also that members of staff are getting practical on the job training in the real world to make sure they are receiving the best possible outcomes too.

As well as meeting the needs of the bus and coach industry, Commercial Roadskills also carries out handover training for heavy transport drivers who are picking up their new units from DAF and Kenworth dealer Southpac Trucks.

"We provide several levels of handover from standard to a full days comprehensive handover session for Southpac Trucks clients to make sure that the drivers fully understand the technology within their new work vehicle with what it can do, cant do and how to  operate it efficiently," says Newth.

We have seen the rise recently in drivers relying on technology to “keep them on the road and upright” rather than understanding that the technology is actually there to assist drivers and they still need to make the decisions on when and how to use it, they are not operating driver-less vehicles yet! – well for the time being anyway.

Newth says he also often carries out on the job training for side loaders and truck mounted crane operators to make sure the drivers are confident and competent in operating these.

"We will often go out on the job with the driver to train them in using a truck mounted crane or a side loader while delivering goods or shipping containers to a client in  challenging real world situations to make sure they are following best practise procedures during the operation," says Newth.

The change in the industries thinking about improving and delivering quality training in these areas is raising the profile of the industry which can only be good for the industries future!