Ann Potratz, Editor - Transport
March 17, 2021
Road test requirements are designed to aid in vetting driver applicants, but your road test should do more than evaluate driving skill. It should also help determine long-term fit. A standardized road test is an indicator of whether a driver can safely handle your equipment. It can also give you insight into the driver's ability to learn, be patient in stressful situations, and fit into your team. The road test should be a well-defined, but fair evaluation of your new drivers.
The importance of having the right people conducting your road tests can't be emphasized enough. While there is no specific certification needed to conduct a road test, many carriers make sure the person is licensed and qualified to drive the truck in the event the test goes badly. In addition, your trainers should have a good level of experience and thorough knowledge of the safety goals. Look for individuals who are calm under pressure, pay close attention to detail, and (most importantly) can put an applicant at ease.
The road test should start with a brief introduction and exchange of expectations between the trainer and the applicant to develop a comfort level. This is key to getting the most out of your road tests. Drivers who feel comfortable are more likely to reveal their feelings about the work and previous experiences. What they have to say about previous employers is probably what they will be about you in a few months. Train your trainers to listen and look for habits and tendencies that could signal trouble later.
The regulations spell out exactly what skills the drivers need to perform during a road test. Those skills include operating the vehicle in traffic, using vehicle controls and emergency equipment, passing, turning, braking, slowing the vehicle by means other than braking, backing, parking, and coupling/uncoupling (if applicable).
Beyond those skills, however, you want to know how the driver will actually perform on the job. Does the driver just look at each item during a pre-trip inspection, or actually touch them? A driver's attention to detail could say a lot about how the individual might treat other aspects of the job. Is the applicant an aggressive driver or hard on the brakes? These behaviors give you insight into the driver's character.
After the road test, the trainer should review the driver's performance, and note the reaction. Is the applicant receptive to constructive criticism? Does he or she show a willingness to improve? If so, the applicant might be a good fit for your company.
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