Like many sectors, road transport must face up to a number of issues related to professional training. Recently, digital platforms have offered new possibilities to fleet managers and training instructors. So let’s take a moment to have a look at these digital tools which are taking part in the transformation of training for lorry drivers.
Driver training and its constraints
Over 40 different types of training offered to candidates
In terms of driver training, candidates are spoilt for choice. For example, the French Association for Adult Vocational Training (AFPA) offers almost 40 different training courses to obtain a diploma, perfect skills, or as a regulatory requirement.
In this way, beyond basic driver training, there are a number of different starter training programmes, as well as complementary modules. All these possibilities make things more complicated both in terms of choosing training for candidates and in terms of recruitment for fleet managers.
Training costs between € 500 and € 2,000 depending on the country
Just as there is no fixed cost for obtaining a Category B driver’s license in France, the cost of an HGV licence may vary significantly. There are geographic disparities, a lack of pricing transparency, differences in the quality of teaching… so many aspects that explain discrepancies in costs. Differences in price are even greater on a European level: the category C licence will cost € 470 in Poland versus € 2,000 in Germany and France for example (see graph). However, whether it costs € 470 or € 2,000, the licence will have the same value everywhere in Europe, and be recognized in the same way.
Training programmes can take up to 400 hours, with less than 10% of practical teaching
While basic training for freight transport takes 140 hours, it can reach almost 400 hours for certain qualifications or diplomas. Because it is so time-consuming, for both drivers and companies, training should be optimized to save time for everyone involved.
Another element: in general, too much time is spent learning theory and this is done at the expense of practice. For example, the training programme to obtain professional accreditation as a straight truck driver lasts around 385 hours in total. Out of these 385 hours, only 32 hours are devoted to practice. This goes for most training organizations, such as Aftral for example.
While prices may vary around Europe, regulations are being harmonized. Indeed, haulage and road passenger transport operators have to go through training every five years.
A sector which needs 16,000 new drivers
The French haulage sector is facing a serious shortage of drivers. Most employers’ federations, the Union TFL (French Union of Transport and Logistics Companies), and the FNTR (National Haulage Federation), have identified a lack of human resources. According to these organizations, there are over 20,000 positions to fill in the short term, including almost 16,650 driver jobs. That represents around 5% of all the jobs in the sector for France. There are a number of different reasons for this lack of candidates: an uptake in business over the last few months, stricter regulations, the fact that these are not jobs which are valued highly, and the end of military service which was a way of obtaining an HGV licence.
Training has also been identified as a reason. Because of its cost, its length and its complexity, potential candidates prefer to use their Category B licence rather than commit to a lengthy training period. The difficulties the transport sector has in terms attracting new recruits become obvious when we look at the average age of drivers in France – now over 50. With a wave of retirements on the horizon, it is now more urgent than ever to recruit.
The same is true on a European level. Foreign drivers, of which there used to be many in France, are progressively returning to their countries of origin where the local economy is improving. But that’s not the only reason. Many European countries, with the UK leading the way, are also faced with the problem of retirements and low rates of recruitment for haulage companies. As a result, they are having to call back drivers for their local markets. The consequences: As they “cannot recruit, some companies are having to leave certain markets,” as Florence Berthelot, deputy director of the FNTR emphasizes. Non-competitive responses to calls for bids, selection of clients, reducing the area in which the company operates, lower turnover… these are just some of the consequences that haulage companies could have to face in the more or less long-term future.
In France, the sector is taking active steps to recruit
To find a solution to this lack of candidates, several French organizations have launched TREMPLIN (Transport Routier EMPLoi INnovation – Road Transport Jobs Innovation), a large-scale operation to streamline recruitment of drivers and other haulage sector jobs.
The campaign started in 2017 and aims to fill 22,363 positions in total. Even though the initiative is positive, it will certainly have to face the same problems as current driver training programmes: high costs, a lack of practice, a long training period and a lack of flexibility in the training programme.
Driver training is being transformed through digital technologies
To overcome these challenges, training for professional drivers is reinventing itself. More personalized, less expensive, and more flexible: digital training is winning over candidates, training instructors and companies.
Digital training – a tool at the service of drivers and companies
Using new digital technologies as part of the training process, digital training responds more effectively to the expectations of candidates and fleet managers, in a number of different ways.
This type of training can be undertaken remotely and at any time Digital training thus offers greater flexibility. Digital technologies also offer a means of responding to the specific needs of candidates. Unlike with more generalized learning, every candidate can enjoy personalized teaching. This adjustment to the trainee driver’s needs offers the advantage of considerably reducing training time. Finally, in terms of both basic training and ongoing training, digital tools are better attuned to the challenges faced by professionals. They offer an opportunity to make more progress while taking less time out, while providing every company with the opportunity to deliver specialized training.
Example of an EDISER Group HGV driving simulator (http://www.simucar.com/):
Virtual reality, COOC, mobile applications – digital training has many faces
Digital training takes many shapes. In this way, every candidate can adapt their type of training to their options and needs.
- E-learning: this is the classic form of remote digital training. Whether it comes in the shape of online training, remotely delivered training, or consulting an educational website, it offers an autonomous training option. E-learning is widely used by VTC drivers who, since 2013, have to take in-service training courses every five years.
- M-learning: unlike e-learning, this learning tool is not aimed at training or perfecting a specific skillset, as such. M-learning is simply a means of accessing specific information when you need it. It is a sort of FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) which enables you to do your job better on an everyday basis. Accessible from a smartphone or a tablet, this learning tool was chosen by Lyreco to support its 400 delivery drivers.
- Blended Learning: this is currently one of the fastest growing training methods (+ 9 % in 2016 according to Cegos, an in-service training specialist). It combines classic and digital learning techniques to optimize learning. It offers a mix of e-learning and in-person training, which is currently particularly attractive in the automotive sector, where the transfer of skills requires practice.
- Virtual reality: some transport companies, such as UPS, have chosen to use VR (Virtual Reality) headsets to train their drivers. We could also take the example of haulage groups, such as FLO, who make available to their members a driving simulator with a moving platform, immersive screens and a driving cab. The whole system fits into a trailer, so that it can be taken between companies. It feels completely real and offers the driver the opportunity to practice in actual driving conditions. The objective: present the student with unusual situations, impossible to simulate in real life, to improve their performance (see first picture, credit: Consoptima.com).
- MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses): these are online courses that are open to everyone, without any need for prior qualifications or to pay subscription fees. In general, they take the shape of video classes (live or pre-recorded) and are followed by an exam at the end of the session or the year.
- COOCs (Corporate Online Open Courses): like MOOCs, these are online classes. The difference is that they are specially designed by a company to train its employees. They are a useful tool, especially for fleet managers to present new internal directives. In 2015, Arval, a company specializing in renting vehicles to businesses, presented the first COOC for managing a long-term rental automotive fleet.
- Serious Games: this type of training involves using a digital app (virtual reality, simulator, 3D immersion, etc.) to train candidates to deal with real-life situations. We should note the difference between Serious Games and “gamification”: gamification uses elements from games to make training more interesting and engaging. Serious Games, however, are a type of training which fully takes the shape of a game or a simulation. To illustrate this principle, we can take the example of a racing simulator which, despite users playing ‘for fun’, also trains them to be drivers.
MyTraining, a Michelin solutions tool to bring driver training up to speed
using a mobile application to train staff has become a reality for many companies in the automotive sector. But whether we’re talking about Lyreco and its drivers or Norauto and its technicians and salespeople, m-learning comes with a major setback: it leaves learners alone with their smartphone or tablet.
It is to resolve this problem that Michelin solutions has developed a new tool for training drivers: MyTraining. This application is managed by a training instructor during an exam or during real-time training with a driver. It suggests a range of training objectives and determines whether they have been fulfilled by the driver. Once the course is over, it is possible to return to actions which have been successful or not over the entire course.