Driver Education vs. Driver Training
There’s a difference between educating fleet drivers and training them. Fleet managers need to do both in order to ensure a safe fleet.
Driver education in the classroom can include topics such as a review of laws, defensive driving, and being prepared for the unexpected.
The terms are often used interchangeably: driver training and driver education. You want your fleet to operate as safely as possible, so you implement a driver training - or driver education - program. Same thing, it seems - either way, drivers are learning.
However, there are key differences between safe driver training and safe driver education, and knowing and understanding those differences will make both more effective methods and keep the fleet safer.
The General Difference
One of the simplest differences between the two is that education is learning what, and training is learning how. It might seem a distinction without a difference, but upon deeper reflection, the difference becomes clearer. Further, it becomes clear that they go hand in hand in keeping drivers safe.
Harken back to high school; you likely took "Driver's Ed," or driver education. Part of the course entailed sitting in a classroom, learning the rules of the road, reading and studying course material, and taking written exams. However, Driver's Ed didn't begin and end there. Sitting in a classroom studying about driving is pretty much an exercise in futility if that learning is not put to practical use - and that's where training enters the picture. You sat behind the wheel, next to the instructor, and you learned how to drive, taking that classroom knowledge and using it to actually operate a vehicle.
You can take this logic and apply it to fleet safety. Safety education teaches drivers the importance of taking safety seriously, teaches the techniques of defensive driving, and tests the "what" of safe driving. Safety training, on the other hand, puts a driver behind the wheel (or some simulation thereof) and applies the education: learning what pressure to apply to a brake pedal, how far to turn the wheel, how to use the mirrors, and how to react in an emergency - the "how" of safety.
Which is Appropriate and When?
Neither education nor training is a standalone process. Education is useless without training, and training impossible without education. By the time they are hired by the company, most drivers have received some level of safety education, but likely not training specific to that education.
Newly hired employees to be assigned company vehicles should be the starting point for driver education. Most of them have not received any such education since the aforementioned Driver's Ed course in high school, and that course focused on laws and regulations. Although this is certainly part of learning to drive safely, the responsibilities that come with driving a company-provided vehicle go beyond initial training.
The company's fleet policy should be added to state and local laws, including:
● Why and under what criteria the company provides a vehicle.
● Personal use rules.
● The employee's responsibilities in carrying out proper vehicle care.
● How accidents are classified (chargeable/non-chargeable), and what the consequences are if chargeable accidents occur.
● How violations are classified, motor vehicle record (MVR) reviews, and consequences for incurring such violations.
These and other fleet policy details should be first on the driver education list. Newly hired drivers should have the policy explained to them, know where to access it going forward, and sign off on it in writing.