In Memoriam: Coach's

Are Your Drivers Really the Wild Card in Your MPG-Seeking Goal?

Maybe “yes” if you believe the experts who say that up to 30 percent of a vehicle’s efficiency is impacted by driver behavior. Maybe “no” if you are not influencing your drivers.

May 7, 2013

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About three decades ago, I perceived that fleet drivers were, indeed, key to safety, mpg, and other HR-related concerns. We then created an annual publication, Business Driver, which became very popular with the fleet manager community.

It was offered at no cost, in bulk, to all. The magazine was popular with marketers, as well as fleet managers, and we distributed more than a half-million copies at the zenith of its life.

But, the landscape does change over time. Etched in my memory are myriad comments from our AF readers sharing the horror stories of drivers complaining about almost everything under the sun. It seemed as if drivers were the bane of almost every fleet manager’s existence (along with attempting to placate their own executive management on their car preferences and problems).

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Then, a panacea was presented by the FMCs. You, the fleet manager, no longer need to worry about the drivers. Our 800-number, along with some of your policy guidelines, will keep them out of your hair for good (for a price). Hallelujah!

This same period also produced corporate belt tightening, which prompted more employees to work from home, full or part time. It saved the company work space and other costs, but also, as an unintended, positive consequence, saved the nation mpg costs.

The whole point here is pretty well summed up by a response I got regarding my December 2012 editorial on “How’s Your IQ on MPG?” It came from Ed Miller, fleet manager at Morris Communications. He said, “I would like to say that ‘going green’ is not about a rational fuel conservation or replacement strategy. It’s an agenda.”

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.

-Albert Einstein

Intellectuals solve problems; geniuses prevent them.

-Albert Einstein

You can’t control the wind, but you can adjust your sails.

-Albert Einstein

Thomas Bray at J.J. Keller wrote to us recently. He stated, “I used to work for a fleet that had gone so heavily to technology that it got to the point where we suddenly realized we didn’t know if our drivers were happy, sad, thrilled, mad, or about to quit due to never actually talking to them!”

In the sector of the trucking industry, Troy Clarke, president/COO of Navistar, told an audience at the American Truck Dealers (ATD) conference that there are 25,000 fewer drivers than needed. While this may be a case of compensation or not being home on weekends, it’s still a symptom of losing touch with the driver.

If “suitability” is at, or near, the top of the most important considerations in vehicle selection surveys, and you do not have regular direct contact with your drivers, how can you make key decisions with certainty?

In today’s corporate atmosphere, most rely on outsourcers or on the ubiquitous e-mail, mobile app, or texting to communicate. It’s impersonal and wrought with the fact that one loses understanding, empathy, and a certain connection that inhibits making any decision easier to accept along the way. Yet, we are virtually doomed to the technology era and the results they deliver.

Technology also produces the GPS/tracking abilities that can — and do — identify each driver at every filling station, dry cleaner, and precise time getting home. Every company driver has to lose some confidence that he or she is a trusted employee almost working in some kind of near-police state when they are constantly bombarded with oversight.

If we want the cooperation and buy-in of our fleet drivers, I suggest that we create some kind of mask in our micromanagement world and find some way to personalize our relationships. Of course, that’s only if we want to educate, influence, and motivate those around us.
If you disagree, let me know.

[email protected]

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Author Bio

Ed Bobit

Editor & Publisher

With more than 50 years in the fleet industry, Ed Bobit, Automotive Fleet editor and publisher, reflects on issues affecting today’s fleets. Drawing insight from his own experiences in the field, Ed offers a perspective similar to that of a sports coach guiding his players.

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