Smith Driving Goes Virtual
Smith Driving Goes Virtual
A lot of operational changes have been made at Greenville Utilities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of these changes occurred with our Smith System Driver Enhancement Training, which has now gone virtual.
Claims Administrator Kimber Seachris is our certified Smith System trainer. For eight years, Kimber has been responsible for making sure every employee who drives a GUC vehicle, or a personal vehicle for GUC, completes the Smith class, which includes a class for beginners and a refresher training for recertification every three years.
Smith System is a program that not only helps reduce vehicle accidents with experienced drivers, but also reduces fuel and vehicle maintenance costs. Smith System got its start in the United States in 1952 and has grown to serve millions of drivers around the world, including our own GUC drivers.
We currently have 374 Smith System Trained drivers. The initial training includes an eight-hour course that begins in the classroom and ends with on-the-road coaching. The refresher training is condensed to five hours of class and driving time.
Smith Driving classes are typically held with up to five employees at a time, including the driving portion, which is done with one of our GUC vans. But with the pandemic forcing everyone to socially distance themselves, driving classes in person are not an option.
“I did not want our employees to get behind on their driver training, so I put my creative cap on and came up with a virtual solution,” Kimber said. “And our employees are enjoying it and giving me great feedback so far.”
Kimber’s solution is simple. For both the classroom and driving portions of the training, employees and Kimber use the video conference tool of the Microsoft Teams app, which can also be downloaded on mobile devices, including iPads. This allows Kimber to give her class presentation online in real time, and then be with employees virtually when they drive.
Employees go to GUC’s Stores Warehouse to check out a holder for mobile phones or iPads. These holders attach to the vehicle in various ways, allowing Kimber to see the driver and the road and also talk to the driver using the Teams video tool. Drivers are able to complete their evaluation of their driving skills and receive feedback from Kimber.
Kimber’s first virtual driver was Meter Technician James Hardee. “The virtual class is a big plus,” said James. “I especially liked being able to drive my own GUC-assigned vehicle, and I feel like others will like that, too. It still seemed like Kimber was sitting in the truck with me. This gives new meaning to a back seat driver!”
Based on employee feedback, Kimber is currently looking at other ways to improve the visual technology and will possibly utilize a type of Go-Pro camera in the GUC vehicle.
Kimber says it took a team of employees to help turn her virtual class idea into reality. “Big thanks to the employees who jumped on board to make this happen,” she said. “Gary Allen (Safety), David Boyd and Hunter Dixon with Stores, Eban Kea (IT), and Carried Peed (Training Office). James Hardee (Meter) and Emily Garner (Public Information) were the first to participate in the on-the-road virtual training, helping me work out any kinks in the system.”
Other employees who helped test the system were Keith Fisher, Alvin Davis, Bennie Pittman, Maurice Ampley, Jordan Godley, and Mike Silverthorne with Water Resources, Joey Breeden (Meter), Kay Spriggs (HR), Dillan Wade (Gas), and Tony Godwin (IT).
“All of their assistance and feedback has been extremely helpful,” said Kimber. “Employees found this new virtual method more convenient for scheduling around their jobs, and they really enjoyed the one-on-one setting versus the group setting. I’m currently working on improvements from their feedback. It truly has been a team effort to make this such a successful venture!”
The Smith Driving 5 Keys
- Aim High In Steering ®
Looking further ahead than other drivers
- Get The Big Picture ®
Seeing more around you than other drivers
- Keep Your Eyes Moving ®
Being more aware than other drivers
- Leave Yourself An Out ®
Positioning in traffic better than other drivers
- Make Sure They See You ®
Making yourself more visible than other drivers