TOPIC: Who handles chauffeur training in the company? How long is the program and does it include an on-the-road test? Which program do you use, or did you design your own? Are chauffeurs retested periodically?Aadvanced Limousines has found it beneficial to have an in-house trainer for our chauffeur staff, which allows us to retrain the team annually, critique and adjust to market demands, and make sure we are providing superior service. Our program has evolved since our inception, and now consists of nine training videos (about 10 hours of classroom time) followed by 18 live reservations. The hands-on portion is split into three categories that allow the trainee to ride along with a senior chauffeur. The first six reservations are what we call “look, learn, and listen” period. The next six reservations constitute the “look, learn, and listen—plus drive the vehicle while it is empty” stage. The final six reservations call for the trainee and chauffeur to switch places, and the senior driver is given the opportunity to “look, learn, and listen.”
Ken Carter, Owner
Aadvanced Limousines in Indianapolis, Ind.
Both my partner Leo and I conduct initial interviews. The interview may last up to an hour as we try to gauge the person and his overall state of mind. We ask a lot of questions and try to make people talk about themselves as much as possible. If his driving record is clean and he passes the drug test, we set up road training with one of our top chauffeurs. Initially, road training is two days. After that, we prompt feedback from the supervising chauffeur on whether this person is ready to go, needs more training, or simply is not good. On-the-road training is a maximum of five days; once it’s complete, we have the applicant come back to the office to meet with us again. We assess the person’s appearance, review the road training, and check his knowledge of using driver mobile applications to accept jobs, change statuses, and close jobs. Chauffeurs are not retested. If issues arise, we call the person to the office to discuss any deficiencies and evaluate what, if anything, can be done to help him get back on track.
Vadim Dashuta, COO
ReserveLimo in Los Angeles, Calif.
After the new hire passes a drug and alcohol test (done at our expense), he spends the first day completing paper work, learning the technology (iPad, smartphones, and Livery Coach), and sitting with our dispatch department to observe how dispatchers work with chauffeurs (status updates, timing, traffic, etc.). He will also apply online for the permits issued by the City of Dallas or Fort Worth. The chauffeur is then assigned to a team where the team leader is responsible for training the chauffeur in the nuances of the Premier way. This session lasts for three days as he rides shotgun during active runs with his new team leader. This is followed by one or two days of chauffeuring where the team leader rides shotgun and observes his interaction with clients, knowledge of the city, and safe driving practices. Finally, we send the new chauffeur on a scavenger hunt of our most frequented pickup locations—about 40 addresses—both easy and difficult to find. Once the training is complete, he will sit down with the dispatch manager and his team leader to address any questions and to once again convey the high expectations we have for all our chauffeurs.
Eric Devlin, President
Premier Transportation Services in West Dallas, Texas
Chauffeur training is handled by both our chauffeur manager, who is responsible for recruiting, hiring, training, and maintaining all of our chauffeurs, and our director of safety. Our training program is one week long and comprises two days of classroom training (customer service, role playing, company policies and procedures, etc.); one safety day (with our director of safety), which includes a half-day in the classroom and a half-day on the road for driving evaluation; and then two days of road training with one of our senior chauffeur mentors. The first day on the road is observation and assistance, and the second day consists of driving and full chauffeur responsibilities.
The program is a self-developed hybrid utilizing different features from different training programs such as Smith System, National Safety Council, and AAA. Chauffeurs are then monitored through DriveCam and additional safety training, which we do at our chauffeur meetings. Any serious DriveCam incidents, of course, warrant additional training.
Jon Epstein, President
Royal Coachman Worldwide Limousine Service in Denville, N.J.
As CEO, I believe chauffeur training to be a top priority, so I supervise it myself. Training sessions occur one Monday a month, and everybody attends the roughly two-hour class. Every three months, the training session will extend up to five hours, and includes matters such as program and personnel planning for the next three months and other administrative aspects.
A 25- to 30-minute road test is conducted twice a year, overseen by me. This is also an opportunity for personal one-to-one training. The training program was created by the company, and refined over a number of years. We rely heavily on feedback from customers and also take part in regular meetings with colleagues from the Swiss Limousine Association and other similar organizations. Our chauffeurs are required by the State Department of Motor Vehicles to receive a stringent medical test every three years. There are no other “re-test” requirements, except in the case of a major accident or incident.
Dominick Hunzinger, CEO
VIP Driver in Killwangen, Switzerland
The training program starts from the top down; I still take every prospective chauffeur on a road test.
It is important to have a set checklist that incorporates both vehicle-handling skills and social skills, as this is what makes someone a chauffeur, as opposed to just a driver. Once this first step is successfully completed, the training advances to dispatch operations and fleet management. We incorporate a mix of approaches from Smith System, NLA, PINNACLE driver programs, and our company. The key that sets our industry apart from other ground transportation is service, which comes from good etiquette and deportment. Our motto here at L.A. Limousines is “Training and Education is a Process Never Completed.”
Edison Kahakauwila, President
L.A. Limousines & Transportation Services in Victoria, British Columbia
Since we are a midsize operator, we are able to do one-on-one training. The chauffeurs are trained by three different people: The initial hiring, driving test, background testing, and video training are handled by our owner; the company’s policies are taught by the operations manager; and airport instruction and drive-along are overseen by the chauffeur supervisor. The hiring process—from the interview to the background checks to the final testing—takes about two weeks. We have refresher courses that have been provided by different insurance companies; these usually involve defensive driving and the like. For the bus drivers, we use J.J. Kellar’s online programs.
Jess Sandhu, VP of Operations
A&A Limousine Services in Seattle, Wash.
Windy City‘s training program is a compilation of tried-and-true practices gained over many years in the industry. Windy City chauffeurs receive written, as well as lecture, instruction and testing for three days in the classroom, along with videos from Coaching Systems, the Smith System, and others. The classroom instruction is employed immediately when trainees advance and ride with trainers to gain a firsthand perspective. We use role reversal in which the employee trainer will drive and the trainee will watch, then the trainee will drive while the trainer offers constructive criticism and written performance evaluations. Trainees may spend four or more days on the road; it varies by experience and ability to adapt to the Windy City way.
Are chauffeurs retested more than periodically? They are tested every day! Nothing is taken for granted—our clients must approve of our services. If an employee has a service failure, managers revisit each incident with the employee. We break down the cause and determine a more practical, customer-friendly way to complete the task. After the initial pre-hire road test, we re-test every three years as required.
Jamie Smith, Chauffeur Manager
Windy City Limousine in Chicago, Ill.
Our operations manager begins the process with multiple interviews. We try to hire chauffeurs in groups of five to 10 people. After the interview, we assign new hires to a lead chauffeur, who will walk them though a class of safety, systems, policies and procedures, and paperwork, followed by a test. Then, the lead will take them on the road, training them in safety, landmarks, airports, culture, etc. The ops manager handles all the paperwork, and those who pass the tests are then hired. We retrain in the event of new safety policies or procedures, or if there is an accident or service issue.
We created a training system of our own by implementing resources like STOP program, Smith System, 3D driver training software, and other mentor programs in the industry.
Brandan Stein, President & COO
Exclusive Sedan Service in West Hollywood, Calif.
The bulk of our training is performed one-on-one with the driver manager. We have found that this creates a proper chain of command; having the boss do the training is added pressure on the new hires, which makes it hard for them to learn. I’m fortunate to have a trainer who is well-versed in driver safety and proper protocol. I empower him to dismiss drivers who do not meet his standards or don’t take the training seriously. During the training, I use the vehicle’s DriveCam to monitor the new hire’s performance as he goes through a four to five day process of one-on-one training. Once this is complete, I will often do a ride with him to see how he does without the trainer to assist. If all looks good, we let him on his own, and the second phase of job training begins. I will work the new chauffeur daily as a dispatcher and try to create a respectful working relationship that builds confidence along the way.
Christian Stochholm, Owner
New Jersey Limo Finder in Short Hills, N.J.
After an interview with a senior manager and me, an applicant is invited to attend our four-day chauffeur orientation. After passing our comprehensive test, the applicant will spend two days driving and riding along with a senior chauffeur. After successfully completing our background check and meeting our safety standards, the applicant can be assigned requests. Requests given to new applicants are usually long-standing customers who have agreed to review and offer feedback on new chauffeurs. We meet with all our chauffeurs quarterly, and various aspects of service are addressed or reiterated. We have created our own training program and even made videos to illustrate service expectations.
Ibro Torlo, Chauffeur Manager
Signature Transportation Group in Arlington Heights, Ill.
Our training program has been developed in-house and continues to evolve. It begins with a road test followed by 20 hours of classroom training. Before taking live pickups, hires go on ridealong trips with senior chauffeurs. Newly hired CDL drivers perform a pre-trip inspection while observed by a driver trainer and then drive a test route with the trainer to ensure they have the proper skills. If a driver is transitioning to a CDL, another 20+ hours are spent with that driver, including extensive pre-trip inspection training, road training, and preparation for the required DOT skills tests.
On an annual basis, chauffeurs are checked through our in-house Check Ride program. This program is similar to what airlines use to check a pilot’s competency, and is done on “live trips” with the GM or a driver trainer. In addition to the Check Ride, Majestic Limousine also holds an annual Chauffeur Rodeo, which enables chauffeurs to demonstrate and sharpen their skills through a series of tests and obstacles. This not only helps them improve their skills, but also serves as a great team-building exercise.
Scott Woodruff, President & CEO
Majestic Limo & Coach in Des Moines, Iowa
We’ve loved hearing your answers to our benchmarking questions since debuting this interactive section—but we always welcome suggestions for future topics, too!
Have you wondered how others in the industry have tackled a concern you’re currently facing, handled a delicate issue, implemented a certain policy, or do you simply want to propose a topic for our consideration?
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and you just might see your query answered in a future issue. We look forward to your input!