Market Trends

Managing the Asset Vs. Managing the Driver

June 11, 2013

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What is your primary responsibility? Is it managing the vehicle or managing the driver? Where do you think you will have the greatest opportunity to control costs and increase productivity?

Most fleet programs focus on modifying the asset versus modifying driver behavior. However, there’s a limit to how much a fleet manager can modify a fleet selector before beginning to impact the fleet mission. The bottom line is that you can’t change the fundamental requirements of your business, which necessitates a minimum equipment requirement.

If you are constrained by equipment limitations, the best way to achieve additional corporate cost control and sustainability objectives is by modifying driver behavior. Driver participation and compliance is critical to the success of any fleet program. A corporate sustainability program will not succeed without driver participation. Likewise, cost-cutting initiatives are doomed if drivers do not comply. The way employees drive company-assigned vehicles can improve (or decrease) fuel economy and reduce (or increase) emissions. The best ways to ensure driver participation is three-pronged – policy compliance, training, and technology.

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Training Drivers to Be Better Drivers
The best opportunity to modify driver behavior is by training drivers to more efficiently perform their job. For instance, if up to 30 percent of a vehicle’s fuel efficiency is impacted by driver behavior, you need to make partners out of drivers to achieve corporate cost reduction and sustainability goals.

The way employees drive their vehicles can either increase or decrease fuel economy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. If you change the driving behavior of your employees, you have a direct impact on the amount of fuel consumed and the amount of emissions produced. Even small increases in mpg can result in substantial savings when extrapolated across the entire fleet. Fleet managers who have implemented eco-driving training programs report a 5- to 30-percent reduction in annual fuel consumption by changing driver behavior. The term eco-driving refers to specific driving behaviors that can improve fuel economy, reduce operating expenses, decrease GHG emissions, and promote safe driving. In fact, eco-driving practices, by default, make employees safer drivers by discouraging aggressive driving and speeding. Many fleets correctly view eco-driving and safe driving as being intertwined. Besides decreasing fuel consumption, eco-driving also helps lower other operating costs by extending the life of wear items, such as tires and brakes. A good example is to recommend to drivers to pre-plan trips to minimize stop-and-go driving, which burns fuel more quickly and increases emissions.

To maintain driver motivation, you need to have an ongoing eco-driving training program for new hires and periodic refresher courses for current drivers, offering tangible incentives for employees who perform well.

Driver Compliance Through Fleet Policy
All too often, managers attempt to control fleet costs on the backend. The best time to control cost is before it occurs and the way to do this is through establishing policies and procedures that inhibit unnecessary spending and establish the parameters as to how drivers operate and maintain an asset. By establishing fleet policies up-front for expense control and making a concerted effort to ensure these policies are uppermost in the minds of your drivers, you will reap substantial cost savings. Fleet policy institutionalizes the mechanisms to curb money-wasting behaviors.

Unless you have an enforcement program with incentives, the danger is that drivers will drift back to old behaviors. It has been proven that by using more “carrot than stick,” you can maintain these efficiencies over the longer-term. The No. 1 reason corporate sustainability programs are not “sustainable” is due to driver non-compliance. To make sustainability programs work, you must turn drivers into stakeholders in the program. The overwhelming majority of drivers want to do the right thing, but most do not see sustainability as part of their job responsibilities.

When striving to modify driver behavior, there are fundamental areas fleet managers should focus on and communicate to their drivers. For example, aggressive driving (such as speeding, rapid acceleration, and braking) can lower fuel economy by 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent on city streets. A typical fleet sedan consumes half a gallon of fuel for every hour spent idling. Every gallon of gasoline burned produces 19.5 lbs. of CO2 and every gallon of diesel creates 22.1 lbs. of CO2. Likewise, by monitoring and maintaining manufacturer-recommended tire inflation, you can improve fuel economy by up to 3.3 percent.

Modifying Driver Behavior Using Technology
Many fleets have successfully adopted effective technology solutions, such as telematics systems and GPS productivity tools, to modify driver behavior. These fleet managers have successfully developed the business case to acquire these technological tools. Telematics and GPS productivity tools have proven to be highly effective getting drivers to reduce fuel consumption, drive “greener,” and be safer behind the wheel of a vehicle.

Let me know what you think.
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Author Bio

Mike Antich

Editor and Associate Publisher

Mike has covered fleet management and remarketing for more than 20 years and entered the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2010.

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