Knife River, Nrmca Mark Mentor Driver

A 20-year Knife River Corp. and National Ready Mixed Concrete Association partnership has seen delivery of 50,000-plus Mentor Driver Program VHS tapes

Don Marsh

A 20-year Knife River Corp. and National Ready Mixed Concrete Association partnership has seen delivery of 50,000-plus Mentor Driver Program VHS tapes and DVDs, and hundreds of producers attending more than 50 NRMCA-sponsored Mentor Driver training sessions. Developed by Morse Bros., Knife River/Western Oregon Division’s predecessor business, the Mentor Driver library has grown to 93 15-minute DVDs; each features a delivery professional presenting peers an easy-to-remember skill set to improve job performance. Knife River Learning Services Director Dan Abbott and Assistant Director Steve Tupper, who script, narrate and act in the series, received a partnership award during the 2010 NRMCA convention in Austin, Texas.

The Mentor Driver Program helped set the knowledge standard for drivers, said NRMCA Educational Activities Committee Chair Patsy Bergquist (Chaney Enterprises). It is the industry’s most accepted driver training program. [Its] peer facilitation model opens a practical dialog between the front line and managers and allows companies to easily rotate topics to refocus the largest group of employees to skills that meet current challenges and goals.

Abbott, who along with current videographer Mike Bender started the series during another down market (1990-91), notes that the Mentor Driver library encompasses vehicle and product knowledge, plus personal development topics. A safety message or theme underpins nearly every installment. The series’ most popular titles include Keeping the Shiny Side Up and You’re Stuck Now What? about preventing mixer truck rollovers on- and off-road, and Dipstick Detective, featuring two actors who spoof the Dragnet television series and demonstrate ways to prevent engine oil contamination. The newest title, Zoning In, addresses a similar subject Û using the handheld, telematic Zonar device for automatically logging pre- and post-trip inspection points Û in a more straightforward tone.

Mentor Driver subscribers return repeatedly to the series for ongoing staff development; however, NRMCA figures that even if each title sold were viewed only once, the net training would exceed 8,000 hours. Knife River, which acquired Morse Bros. in 1998, has adopted Mentor Driver throughout its ready mixed operations, from Minnesota to Texas to the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii. Like other series users, the producer can schedule local, staff-wide presentations weekly or at other frequent intervals. Knife River staff finds that brief presentations typical of Mentor Driver yield knowledge retention factors of 20-30 percent after one month, versus 12-15 percent when employees have half- or full-day training over much longer intervals. The shorter presentations likewise tend to fit into the regular workweek, while longer sessions often require scheduling for off days or around production shutdowns.

In addition to knowledge retention and a return on learning investment, Abbott and his colleagues have seen the series foster mentor and management team meetings six to seven times a year. [We] work through issues, focus on internal and external communications and make the business better, he says. It creates a positive platform, not a gripe session.

Mentor Driver is a long-standing anchor in the NRMCA training and education program, predating many of the staff and management certification efforts growing out of the RMC 2000 grassroots movement. Additional information on the training series can be obtained from NRMCA Vice President, Education Eileen Dickson, [email protected].