When Steve Brandt founded Steve’s Livestock Transport in 1987, Brandt started with a single truck that he used to provide livestock hauling services for customers in Western Canada.
At the time, adding more than a few trucks to the operation seemed like a far-fetched idea for Brandt. But, over the years as SLT’s reputation for providing dependable services among customers became well-established, SLT has grown to become one of the largest livestock haulers in North America.
Now, the company operates a fleet of 145 heavy-duty trucks out of three terminals in Manitoba and Alberta. SLT’s trucks run in Canada and throughout the Midwest and Eastern Seaboard in the U.S. The company’s primary business continues to be in transporting pigs and cattle, although a dry van division was added to its service offerings in recent years.
With growth, came challenges – especially in driver training. So, in 2013, SLT decided to implement new tools to improve the efficiency of its driver orientation process. Through the recommendation of its insurance agency, SLT turned to CarriersEdge, an online training provider for the trucking industry, as a way to deliver a portion of its orientation content and administrative work online.
Initially, SLT ‘trialed’ the service with a few of its new drivers at the time to see if the online platform would be beneficial for the company moving forward. After finding success, SLT saw an opportunity to take a more proactive approach with its driver training program by utilizing other CarriersEdge courses and services.
The company now assigns refresher and remedial online training courses to nearly all 200 drivers and owner operators in the fleet. But what cemented SLT’s relationship with CarriersEdge was how SLT could create customized courses and upload them to the online portal.
“In the livestock hauling business, regulations are always changing, so it’s important for us to keep our drivers informed with the latest updates,” said Heather Lischynski, SLT safety and compliance manager. “With CarriersEdge, we can upload documents on updates to regulations for animal transport for our drivers to review, as well as assign them with courses we create on those topics. This has helped us become more efficient in the way we deliver training since we don’t need to bring drivers in for it.”
In addition to assigning courses on livestock regulation updates, the company creates courses on standard topics drivers need to know about hauling livestock such as best practices for handling swine and cattle and driver biosecurity protocols.
To help keep drivers well-informed on other topics that can be delivered away from company terminals, SLT assigns drivers monthly ‘refresher’ courses created by CarriersEdge on subjects that include defensive driving, winter driving, hours of service and vehicle inspection. According to Aimee Friesen, SLT training and safety specialist, she can select specific or all drivers to complete courses, and automatically set dates courses are assigned to drivers and when they need to be completed.
Recently, SLT began analyzing data on speeding and hard braking events that are tracked by Speed Gauge and ISAAC. With that information, the company works with drivers to reduce speeding events and assign additional training if warranted. As result, Lischynski claims the company has significantly reduced the number of speed-related traffic events through increased awareness and training.
When SLT first began using CarriersEdge, Friesen recalled that there was some hesitancy among some of the older drivers with the decision. Although for the majority of drivers, the initial apprehension to moving to an online platform didn’t take long to fade.
“Once drivers got set up with their accounts and began to navigate the CarriersEdge platform and take courses, they quickly realized how simple it was to use,” said Friesen. “We offered a brief in-person demo to help drivers that wanted guidance getting set up and that worked out well. We still have a few drivers that prefer to come in and take courses on our computers, but most appreciate the fact that they can take assigned courses on their own devices, and when/where it’s most convenient for them to do so.”
With the online platform, Friesen can identify patterns, such as questions that are commonly answered incorrectly by drivers in modules. With that information, Friesen and other staff can go over the questions and strategize how to best help drivers better understand concepts.
“With an organized system to monitor driver progress with courses, it helps us focus our attention on topics drivers need additional help with,” said Friesen. “Since these courses are administered online, it’s easy to reassign courses or create our own courses on troublesome areas for drivers in a way that isn’t disruptive to our operations.”
With safety scores and insurance rates a top concern for fleets in today’s market, Lischynski said that the company’s training practices over the years have helped the fleet maintain good safety scores and remain in good standing with its insurance provider.
“CarriersEdge was one of the key decisions that helped us evolve from a reactionary/discipline-based approach in safety to a proactive coaching model,” Lischynski said. “As a result of our comprehensive training program, we’ve noticed a reduction in the number of incidents reported. With CarriersEdge, we have documented proof that our drivers are regularly completing and passing courses. Not only does that help when we meet with our insurance provider, but it helps if a driver is involved in an incident and can show proof of training.”