Robust training is especially important for drivers who operate our collection trucks. To ensure new drivers are successful in their job roles, we have established a three-phase approach. In the first phase, a newly hired driver goes through on-site orientation with management, human resources, market area driver trainers and safety specialists. This allows Waste Management to lay the foundation for drivers to get to know their teams, company policies, procedures and benefits, roles and responsibilities, and safety expectations.
Promoting SAFETY Behind the Wheel
The Waste Management SAFETY Defensive Driving system provides safe driving instruction that is specific to waste-collection vehicles. The system is refreshed monthly with videos that address hazards in drivers’ daily operating environments. Topics include safe backing, following distances, pedestrians, bicyclists, rollover prevention and more. Videos are paired with discussions, observations and coaching to ensure consistent understanding among all drivers and managers.
The second phase teaches drivers how to perform the job, with a focus on safety rules, procedures and driving practices. Centralized training for drivers and technicians takes place at training centers in Fort Myers, Florida, and Glendale, Arizona. The new Arizona Training Center, which opened in 2019, includes a 30,000-square-foot maintenance shop, a 10-acre driver training course, classrooms, computer labs and technician workstations to simulate typical experiences at Waste Management facilities.
Newly hired drivers and technicians from across the country travel to these centers for two-week, immersive onboarding programs designed to enhance their capabilities and ensure they are the most engaged, customer-centric and safe employees in the industry. Drivers learn safety rules, procedures, vehicle inspections, safe lifting and Department of Transportation-required curricula that provide scenarios reflective of day-to-day operations. Technicians learn the basics of hydraulics, electrical, preventive maintenance practices and safety procedures.
At the end of the course, drivers and technicians receive a comprehensive performance evaluation, then return to their respective sites for additional on-the-job training. In 2019, 2,553 drivers and 412 fleet technicians completed training at the two training centers. At full capacity, the Arizona Training Center can develop 2,500 drivers and 750 technicians per year.
The third phase of new driver training is a 90-day, three-level, on-the-job training (OJT) program that applies everything the employee has learned about how to safely operate and maneuver our trucks. The OJT program includes a variety of observations, conducted by the driver’s direct manager and a designated site trainer, that range from demonstrating their familiarization of servicing procedures of our trucks to applying the principles of Waste Management’s SAFETY Defensive Driving System, an advanced training program that teaches the critical skills of safe driving (see sidebar above). Since the introduction of OJT, one-year retention of new drivers has increased from 37.5% in 2017 to 76.2% in 2019.
As we continue to expand our capacity to train new hires, we are able to see reduction not only in accidents and injuries, but also in driver and fleet technician turnover. This unique onboarding program positively positions Waste Management relative to other employers recruiting for these critical roles. In addition, early immersion into our company’s culture and values translates to better performance and a longer career with Waste Management.
Improved road safety policies can also help keep drivers safe. Collection drivers must constantly be on the lookout for other drivers on the road, particularly those in a hurry to pass collectors during stops, which is when accidents often occur. Waste Management supports “Slow Down to Get Around” legislation, which requires drivers of other vehicles to slow down when passing collection trucks. The National Waste and Recycling Association is leading the effort to pass this law nationwide; 23 states have done so to date.