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Lessons learned from UPS's hands-on approach to driver training

Updated: Mar 15

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal shed some light on United Parcel Service (UPS) and its recent adoption of blended learning techniques to help train new package delivery drivers. The mining industry can learn much from this innovative and successful model of training. Frustrated that 30% of its driver candidates were flunking UPS's traditional driver training program, the world's largest package delivery company decided to take a more hands-on approach, which combines:

  1. Video simulations that teach common tasks and help new drivers to identify potential obstacles

  2. A contraption called a "slip and fall" simulator that mimics walking on slippery surfaces (pictured above right)

  3. An obstacle course around an artificial village that trainees must negotiate with actual UPS delivery trucks. The program, which has been rolled out at one training center so far, has been very successful; only 10% of the 1,629 trainees who have been through it have failed. Allen Hill, UPS's senior vice president of human resources, is quoted as stating that moving beyond the traditional classroom and using technology and hands-on learning, the company has "enhanced the probability of success" of its driver trainees.

What can the mining industry learn from the experience of UPS? Hiring challenges are already here - and getting worse: Both UPS and the mining industry face similar challenges in recruiting and training new people to pilot their production vehicles. UPS, which has 99,000 drivers in the U.S., says it will need to hire 25,000 new recruits during the next 5 years to replacing retiring Baby Boomers. Keep in mind that UPS doesn't face the geographical isolation that most mines must content with, which exacerbates the problem of attracting and retaining equipment operators. If UPS is taking this trend seriously, shouldn't you? On-the-job training and simulation technology increase learning effectiveness: These training methodologies are critical to meeting the needs of adult learners, who tend to value experiential learning over traditional, instructor-led classroom training. Also, most people learn better by doing than by reading or listening to a presenter. Young people, who are tomorrow's truck operators, have grown up playing video games and are comfortable honing their skills on a simulator. Blended learning can be used to teach best practices for productivity improvement: UPS trains new drivers in its "340 Methods," developed to save time in completing common tasks, while doing them safely. From lifting and loading boxes to selecting a package from a shelf in the driver's truck, UPS realizes that small improvements to work cycles - multiplied by the number of times they are performed in a year, and extrapolated to all of the vehicles and drivers in a fleet - can add up to huge savings and improved profits. Similarly, a 5% improvement in haul truck cycle times or a 10% increase in tire life fleetwide can result in improvements valued in the millions of dollars, depending upon the size of your truck fleet. The lesson? If your mine is focused exclusively on classroom-based, instructor-led training, you should consider incorporating hands-on elements and blended learning to attract and retain tomorrow's haul truck operators.

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