Letters: Training New Drivers; Fuel-Price Volatility

This Letter to the Editor appears in the Feb. 23 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Training New Drivers

I just finished watching the LiveOnWeb panel discussion about the driver shortage, and I appreciated how you looked at a very complex problem, packaging issues together that definitely affect driver retention and hiring.

You drilled down into marketing, company culture, driver pay, respect, home time and customer partnerships. The issue that was mentioned but glossed over was entry-level driver training.

In my opinion, this is vital to the driver shortage because of the image it promotes to the American public and our potential new drivers:



• No agreed upon standards to train new drivers coming into our industry.

• A lack of quality entry-level driver training. Commercial driver license schools as a whole do not have the best reputation. Some schools push volume, emphasizing how to pass tests and not focusing on the foundations of how to maintain control of a truck.

• Many of the curricula focus on application too quickly instead of cementing the foundational issues for the student — application defined as applying foundations to the everyday life of the new driver in a fast-paced, ever-changing industry and foundations defined as the building blocks of driving a truck.

Foundations — including vehicle inspection, gear mastery, minimal steering while backing and defensive driving concepts — don’t change. Foundational training should be promoted at driving schools; students have to walk before they can run. Application should, for the most part, be in the arena of the employer with finishing programs and/or internships with partnerships between certified educational providers and employers; or Gainful Employment Programs with a certified school, still partnered with employers.

• A lack of training continuity for the new driver exists between schools and employers. Many students’ competency or confidence is destroyed when they transition from school to employer. This is due to the lack of a relationship between school and employer concerning consistent training methods.

• Lack of funding sources for the new drivers, which necessitates that schools, employers and governments must work more closely together.

Another issue brought up in your webinar is recruiting potential drivers who will stay for the long term. It is important to know that there are companies and government agencies that do psychological profiles to help identify prospects who will more likely want to stay in the industry.

For example, JoBehaviors Inc. has been successful in profiling the “over-the-road truck driver,” as well as other driving jobs. State governments are doing this as well, through agencies such as workforce development and career centers. If we as an industry can start to understand personalities, learning and communication styles, and utilize the psychological job profiles that meet Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requirements, I believe this will assist in keeping trucks filled and rolling down the road.

I appreciated Kevin Burch’s comment about the 1,100 18- to 20-year-old intrastate CDL holders already driving in Ohio. Our industry has become data driven in the past eight or so years. If we could study the driving records, accidents, claims, etc. of current intrastate CDL drivers younger than 21, we might be able to create a mentoring program for 18-year-olds to welcome them to, and help them understand, our industry and the benefits it provides.

Doug Akers

Manager

Transport Training Institute

Center for Workforce

Development

Ozarks Technical

Community College

Fuel-Price Volatility

I’m always fascinated how quickly energy experts and writers downplay how truly volatile the energy markets are.

Case in point: When Clean Energy Fuels was founded in 1996, oil prices were at about $30 per barrel (inflation adjusted). Ten years later, in 2006, it was more than twice that at approximately $68 a barrel. Fast forward to 2011, and it sat at $91 per barrel. Today, it’s in the $50s, but only months ago it was in the $90s. How’s that for volatility?

In the recent opinion piece, “Natural Gas Adoption to Slow,” (2-9, E&MU, p. A12) Phil Romba says the “sharp plunge in the price of diesel . . . make[s] the fuel of choice more attractive” today. But he also rightly concludes that “few trucking executives expected the price of diesel to drop 80 cents in the space of several months in 2014.”

How can businesses plan in this kind of environment?

Looking ahead, some forecasts suggest oil could hit a low of $20 per barrel this year. Others say the rebound back up has already started. My point is this: Nobody knows.

Pricing roller coasters can be great if you’re a contestant on “The Price is Right” but not in a long-term business setting when every dollar counts. Even at its current and unstable price, diesel remains up to a dollar more expensive than natural gas.

I also appreciate Romba’s discussion of the tax disparity between LNG and diesel. Thankfully, as reported in ttnews.com on Feb. 4 — with the headline “Senate Bill Would Provide Tax Equity For LNG” — Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), two natural gas-vehicle champions, already are working to fix this once and for all, bringing a much-needed solution to solve a market-distorting issue.

So it’s no wonder that using American natural gas — which has been consistently cheaper, more price-stable than diesel for years and always a lot cleaner — remains the choice for more and more American vehicle fleets, big and small.

Chad Lindholm

Vice President

Heavy-Duty Truck Sales

Clean Energy Fuels Corp.

Newport Beach, California

 

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