When Should We Be Training?

This month I want to discuss COVID, the flu and in-person training vs. online training.

I know. I said the word COVID again. I know that we are all sick and tired of that word and that we are all trying to banish the word and thought from our minds.

But did we learn anything about training during COVID? We know that in-person training was eliminated. Did that keep our drivers healthier? By not having large get-togethers, did that reduce the number of truck drivers that got sick? The statistics during COVID showed that the flu was practically eliminated. We are being told that this is because of the lack of people meeting with people and the fact that most people were wearing a mask.

If the above is true, what does that tell us about our usual ‘annual safety meeting,’ often held in person and in November?

I suggest that the planners of these annual safety meetings should perhaps think about two different alternatives.

The first alternative and the main reason for this article (early summer) is so that you can start thinking of this prior to your planning meeting during the summer or early fall. This meeting would be well before we all start gathering indoors again for the cold weather, which makes transmission of any illness less likely.

I know that many companies have their annual safety meeting at the same time as the American Thanksgiving weekend. We know that cross-border trucking practically stops moving for this long weekend. So, it has always made excellent sense for Canadian trucking companies to hold a meeting while your drivers are home and available. But now, with the knowledge we have gained about Covid and the flu, does it truly make sense? Do we want to gather all our drivers, our dispatchers and other management into one common area at the very beginning of the flu season?

What are some of the other choices available for the organizers of these meetings? The first one that comes to mind is to go ahead and hold the meeting as usual and let nature take its course. I know that many companies will be making this choice; but what else can be done? We could hold a meeting and tell all invitees to wear a mask but, I for one, am sick and tired of wearing a mask. So, I don’t like this option. The third alternative or option that I can think of is to hold the safety meeting in an online form such as Zoom. I have recently been able to attend some industry functions in person and I now realize how much I have missed the person-to-person contact. And if I have missed it, how about our drivers? I believe that you, our drivers, have missed getting together and seeing your coworkers face-to-face.

Because I believe our drivers have missed face-to-face meetings, I’m not an advocate of having an online driver safety meeting. Online sessions have their place and I encourage the use of technology, but I think some of the messaging gets lost when we do things online, so I would much prefer an in-person meeting. Ideally, I think that when possible, we should try to get all of the drivers together in one place.

So, if I am discouraging an annual, online meeting and encouraging a personal face-to-face to get-together, my next question is, do we have to do it in November? Do we have to do it right at the beginning of the flu season?

There is no written rule that states that the annual safety meeting should be held in November during the American long weekend. It is for our convenience only that we choose this time. That is why I’m writing this article now, during the summer, so that you have some time to think about this.

Perhaps a better choice would be to hold a safety meeting in August or September as this is before the start of the flu season. Of course, the downside is that the number of drivers that will be available is less, as it is not a long weekend.

No solution is perfect. Online training has its distinct advantages and disadvantages. The November safety meeting certainly has advantages and disadvantages. As well, the late summer and early fall meetings will have their pros and cons. I’m just wondering if it’s time to think a little differently. How can we best protect our drivers and coworkers? Is there a different way to hold safety meetings?

Be safe.

Chris Harris
Top Dawg, Safety Dawg Inc.
@safety_dawg (twitter)

About Chris Harris, Safety Dawg

Chris has been involved in trucking most of his adult life. He drove truck for and worked in various office/management positions for a major truck company. His last position of 5 years in the safety department where he was responsible for the recruiting of Owner Operators and their compliance. He joined a trucking insurance company in 2001 and has been in the insurance side of things until making Safety Dawg a full-time endeavour.