Editor’s note: FMW first published this article last spring. The seasons change, but the message is timeless.
By Ed Pierce, Contributing Editor
A well-run fleet management program can dramatically reduce fleet costs by focusing on the vehicle throughout its life cycle. As a general rule of thumb, companies can expect a 15-20% reduction in fleet costs in the first full year.
However, fleet management companies have also found that companies that employ a comprehensive program to achieve excellence among their drivers can realize an additional 5-10% reduction.
Just consider the cost of preventable collisions, downtime due to repairs or injury, or worse, liability.
Or, think about fuel costs, which account for about 30% of most fleet’s budgets. Driver behavior that strays from driver policy — excessive idling, speeding, jack-rabbit starts – is a major contributor to fuel consumption.
An urban transit agency that launched a driver educations and monitoring program and found over 17 hours of unnecessary idling per vehicle in a single week, costing almost $35 per vehicle per week in wasted fuel. Extended to their 650 vehicle fleet, the agency wasted more than $1.6 million dollars a year in fuel from excess idling.
Fleets must adopt and promote a broad definition of what constitutes satisfactory driving behavior. An exemplary driver is one who is highly skilled and crash-free. The model driver knows the importance of proper vehicle maintenance, how to minimize fuel consumption, how to arrive to a destination on time through proper planning, how to drive defensively, and comply with the organization’s driver policy.
Here are simple keys to “Excellent” Driver Behavior that foster exemplary driver behavior:
Driver behavior starts with the company and with fleet operations rather than the driver. Specifically, driver behavior parameters must be defined in the policy before driver commitment can happen.
The policy then must be reinforced before good driving habits become habitual.
We know that the most readable driver policy, the most engaging training, the most sophisticated video production does not overcome a basic human learning defect: Research on the forgetting curve shows that within one hour, people will have forgotten an average of 50 percent of the information you presented. Within 24 hours, they have forgotten an average of 70 percent of new information, and within a week, forgetting claims an average of 90 percent of it. That’s why ongoing communications is so important!
Of course, content is a critical issue for engaging communications. You need to hold drivers’ attention and spark the inner drive. For high-risk drivers, the motivation might be a negative – a reprimand, or a loss of a job. For the majority of drivers, the promise of recognition and reward are effective motivators.
One important point about communications: Multiple sources are better than a single source. Recruit operational managers, the executive team, your FMC to deliver the same message from their different perspectives to reinforce the same message in different ways, from different points of view, and at different times over the course of a period of time.
In the same vein as multiple human sources, look to use diverse media to deliver the same messaging to engage more of the driver’s senses and learning faculties.
Finally, new hire driver assessments, driver risk profiling, training, manager intervention, and executive reinforcement are all part of an effective driver safety program intended to save lives, avoid injuries, and lessen corporate liability.