If there were world enough, and time, many fleet executives and managers in search of advanced training might opt for the traditional classroom-style approach, perhaps in some scenic setting overlooking a manicured green. Imagine the luxury of focusing on one thing for awhile, of taking your time, of discussion and interesting debate with like-minded folks enjoying learning in a leisurely mode.

Imagining is about as close as most busy fleet managers can get to this rosy ideal, however. Running a fleet operation is not a career that lends itself to leisurely pursuits, even of something that has become as essential to business success as sharpening existing skills and developing new ones. No wonder e-learning is finding such a receptive new audience in trucking.

The industry has actually been ahead of the curve in many respects when it comes to taking advantage of technology in providing Internet-based training to drivers and technicians. Moving drivers and technicians to the front of the line for training was an easy choice, a case of putting first things first. After all, safe drivers and safe equipment have always been the top priority, regulated by conscience, good business sense and the DOT. Trucking has been slower, however, to bring those same benefits to the desk-bound employees tasked with running the day-to-day operations of the company.

Now, it is finally the fleet managers’ and executives’ turn to e-learn. Trucking industry suppliers and organizations are leveraging interactive, online training tools and techniques to bring e-learning opportunities to fleet managers and executives, too. Best of all, the new online learning options are delivering top-quality, industry-specific content that can be continually updated to meet the changing needs of this most-changeable of industries.

NEW TO THE CLOUD

One of the newest and most ambitious interactive, online offerings is the Private Fleet Management Online (PFMO) program, a joint project of Instructional Technologies Inc. (ITI) and the National Private Truck Council (NPTC). Launched in October, PFMO is a five-volume e-book of more than 900 total pages covering all five core disciplines of private fleet management, including safety, security and compliance; human resources and workplace development; finance; fleet operational management; and equipment and maintenance strategies. The fleet operations section alone has 16 chapters.

According to Gary Petty, president & CEO of NPTC, the content is based on the best practices, strategies and operations management techniques of the nation’s leading private fleets, originally captured in the training materials for NPTC’s Certified Transportation Professional program, which began more than 20 years ago.

“This replaces the Fleet Learning Center, which was really just the pages of the Certified Transportation Professional training manual available online,” says Tom Moore, vice president-education for NPTC. “It is so much richer; it incorporates so many different learning activities. The private fleet culture is very open and engaged.

I think that culture of engagement is rolled into this new product.”

While many people will use the PFMO program to help prepare to take the Certified Transportation Professional test, Moore sees the program as having uses well beyond certification. “It is a real resource,” he notes, “something people will go back to. Many of our members are already institutionalizing the content, making it a part of their own promotional processes.”

“PFMO is not just an e-book, but an online reference guide,” agrees Dr. James Voorhees, founder & CEO of ITI. It includes video from Instructional Technologies’ extensive training library, plus more graphics, spreadsheets and work sheets that can be downloaded for use. What is more, the cloud-based program will run on virtually any mobile device or web browser, and it can be updated anytime.

Current plans are to make updates four times a year.

“People learn in different ways,” explains ITI CIO Aaron Purvis. “We wanted people to be able to access the system in different ways, but we also wanted the experience to be consistent.” Accordingly, the e-book screens are touch-friendly and users can search for any content item, not just text. All elements can be bookmarked, too, and a notes section for users is automatically saved.

The end result is a tool that extends the usefulness and reach of the original training materials, sometimes in surprising ways. “This program can really open up a company’s hiring pool for managers because it enables fleets to bring new people up to speed much faster than before,” notes Purvis. “It is also excellent for cross-training.

There is even a chapter on partnering with your CFO to help people work better as a team, to understand where the other guy is coming from.” “It is also a good way to provide upward mobility to drivers and others,” adds Voorhees. “It can provide a path upwards within a company. Some companies would like to customize their content, and we can do that as well.”