A 'Common Sense Award' goes to the Dept. of Labor and associates for their driver training program.

Honestly, aren't there days in this grin-and-spin era when you'd do just about anything for a close encounter of the common sense kind? For news about something that is so logical and reasonable that you find yourself saying aloud, 'Now that makes sense. It really does.'

Well stand by to celebrate, because common sense seems to be staging a tentative comeback, sponsored by the U.S. Dept. of Labor. No kidding.

Beginning in November, the American Trucking Assns., in partnership with the Dept. of Labor, the Tennessee and Pennsylvania Trucking Assns., and the Professional Truck Driver Institute of America (PTDIA) will be recruiting truck drivers from among displaced workers. Candidates accepted into the program will be trained at PTDIA-certified schools for jobs in Tennessee- and Pennsylvania-based fleets.

'This training will help solve two problems ' getting laid-off workers back to work and making up the shortage in drivers,' Vice President Al Gore observed as he announced the $1.2-million Dept. of Labor grant for the project. 'Truckers haul 82% of the freight in this country. Another 40,000 drivers will be needed in the next two years. This investment makes sense.'

Indeed, sense seems to be the watchword for this modest-by-government-standards project, which is intended to train at least 200 new drivers as well as create a 'tool kit' for developing similar programs in other states and industries. As further proof, consider the fact that the program will be utilizing a unique assessment test by Scheig Associates of Gig Harbor, Wash., to help identify which applicants would actually make good longhaul truck drivers.

Not a skill, experience, personality, or IQ test, the Scheig tool screens for all the characteristics that sort the very best truck drivers from the rest. And how do they know what those characteristics are? Scheig's test developers worked with actual drivers recognized as the top performers by their managers and by their peers, that's how.

Once these driving professionals helped identify the behaviors common only to the best drivers, Scheig went to work creating and validating their assessment test for longhaul truck operators. The result is a valid and useful test that is also age, race, gender, and experience 'blind.'

'We will be using the Scheig test to help us assure that the people accepted into this program have the interest and the aptitude to become good drivers,' explains William C. Rogers, director of research for the ATA Foundation. 'Generally speaking, it will cost us about $4,000 per driver for training, so we want to do our best to identify candidates that will succeed at the training and choose to stay in the profession.'

While the Dept. of Labor and ATA are just beginning to use the Scheig test, the JVI Commercial Driving School on Prince Edward Island, Canada, has been using the test for about four years. 'It's the tool that works for us,' says Joan Macdonald, president.

'Recently, we polled 196 graduates, 68 of whom are employed as longhaul drivers. It was interesting to confirm that evaluating and ultimately recommending candidates by use of the Scheig results really does work,' she notes. 'We recommend only those who pass the test, and indeed the 68 who were in that category are the survivors. A 99% accuracy rate is impressive.

'You can train drivers all you like, but without the proper attitude, they still won't be successful,' Macdonald adds. 'The Scheig test reduces our chances of recommending someone who will sign on with a fleet only to quit driving two months later.'

That certainly sounds like common sense, doesn't it? Better keep your eyes on Scheig Associates, JVI, and the Dept. of Labor/ATA project. This might be the start of a promising trend.