CCJ Upshift: Fleets turn to virtual tools for driver training, on-road support

Drivers for Halvor Lines are seen following social distancing protocols at a shipping location.Drivers for Halvor Lines are seen following social distancing protocols at a shipping location.

Keeping drivers safe and productive amid the coronavirus pandemic was the focus of a panel discussion by fleet human resource specialists on Wednesday during the virtual CCJ Symposium.

Also discussed were strategies for emerging stronger from the crisis.

Panelist Jessie Burnette, chief people officer of Hirschbach (CCJ Top 250, No. 65), a refrigerated truckload carrier with more than 2,000 power units, has been involved in creating company task forces to support drivers, office staff and their families. One task force is jointly run by the company’s wellness and HR team for providing a 24/7 COVID hotline.

Employees, contractors and their family members can call the hotline to receive help and resources, such as to find locations to be tested should they experience COVID-19 symptoms or get treatment for physical and mental well-being.

All new drivers for the Dubuque, Iowa-based company go through a health and wellness program in orientation training that lasts four hours and covers topics that include functional movement, diaphragmatic breathing and eating with intent, Burnette said.

Drivers can then voluntarily enroll in the company’s ongoing health and wellness program to receive weekly coaching, meal kits and other resources for the road. Hirschbach’s wellness team is also available to the families of drivers and office staff.

Panelist Brenda Kraft, vice president of human resources for Kottke Trucking, a refrigerated truckload and less-than-truckload carrier with 225 trucks, said the Buffalo Lake, Minnesota-based company is conducting driver orientation training meetings remotely.

Kottke has adjusted its driver road test, too, for when new drivers arrive at company headquarters. They conduct a pre-trip inspection as a trainer watches from a distance, and the trainer monitors drivers remotely for a road test utilizing cameras in trucks.

Panelist Chelsea Loining, director of human resources for Halvor Lines, shared how the carrier developed a new mobile application that gives drivers and shipper customers an electronic bill of lading. Drivers for the flatbed, dry van and refrigerated carrier based in Superior, Wis., can socially distance at shipping and receiving locations by not having to exchange paper proof-of-delivery documents.

Partner Insights
Information to advance your business from industry suppliers

“Unfortunately, it took a pandemic for us to get to these levels, but at least there is some positive coming out of it,” she said.

Drivers complete orientation training remotely at Halvor Lines by using its CarriersEdge platform. Whereas drivers typically came in on Mondays and stayed through Thursday for in-person orientation training, orientation training now takes one day. While the process is more efficient, “we prefer in-person contact to get to know drivers on a more personal level. One day we’ll get back to that,” Loining said.

Another topic the panel discussed was how they use video conferencing tools to stay connected. Hirschbach is using Microsoft Teams for company-wide communications. Drivers can view live and recorded videos of company messages from the president and other spokespeople using the tablets in their vehicles when they are not driving.

“The ‘aha’ moment is that we can still function as company, and be as efficient as before, if not more efficient. We are proving that we can do it and showing drivers and mechanics that we can still function, and that we can now make it through this,” said Burnette.

A replay of the panel discussion, titled “On the Front Lines: How to emerge safer and stronger from COVID-19,” will be available for download next week at the following link: