Municipal vehicles are an essential part of the transport system. However, municipal fleet managers are under growing pressure from rising fuel costs, congestion and the need to reduce environmental impacts. National targets for reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions require further efficiency improvements, as poor air quality becomes an increasingly serious problem in many urban areas.
This sustainable fleet management series has been designed specifically for municipal fleet managers. It focuses on the key strategies that will help managers reach their targets for reducing fleet fuel consumption and emissions of greenhouse gases and other airborne pollutants.
All the improvements that municipalities make by purchasing fuel-efficient vehicles and technologies will be largely negated if their drivers aren’t trained to understand how their driving and vehicle usage habits affect fuel efficiency. In the third guide in our series, we focus on the considerable efficiencies and savings that can be found through effective driver management.
These driver management strategies are largely free to implement, yet they hold the key to unlocking thousands of dollars in savings not just from fuel consumption, but also from maintenance and accident expenditure.
Onboarding process for new recruits
Getting the best economy out of your vehicles is a process that is centered on the driver. As the one at the wheel, the driver is the person with the greatest control over a vehicle’s efficiency. For this reason, managers must instill green driving practices from day one of a driver’s employment, ensuring that eco-driving is recognized as the only acceptable form of driving in your fleet.
The most cost-effective way to deliver eco-driver training to your new recruits is for members of the operations management team to undertake a comprehensive eco-driver training course, which they then deliver to their staff.
Working together with the HR or training department, you can use this course material to design practical and theory-based modules specifically related to your operations. These modules can then be added to the driver’s onboarding process. This is also an ideal time to introduce drivers to your vehicle telematics system and explain how you manage and incentivize eco-driving throughout the workforce.
Following the new recruit’s eco-driving training, these positive practices can be successfully reinforced by teaming up the new drivers with your “coaching eco-drivers” – those in your driving team that are at the top of the eco-driver leaderboard. This gives new drivers an opportunity to see the theory of eco-driving put into practice in a real-life situation, with real workloads, jobs, and traffic to manage.
If eco-driver training was not previously part of your drivers’ continual training and development program, then it will have to be issued to all of your current drivers, as well as to new recruits.
Investing in eco-driver training can improve your fleet’s MPG by up to 15%. It has also been proven to drive positive results in the following additional areas:
- Reduced fleet fuel consumption and carbon footprint
- Lowered risk of traffic collisions
- Reduced vehicle wear and tear
As well as covering eco-driving principals such as planning ahead and anticipating traffic flow, modules should also cover vehicle checks, effective load management, fuel-efficient route planning (if drivers plan their own routes), and training in how the telematics system monitors driving practices.
Vehicle telematics systems for continual feedback and development
After their drivers, vehicle telematics systems can be the municipal fleet manager’s most valuable tool for reducing fuel consumption. Telematics systems provide the management team with reams of reports to give them complete control over their assets, and how their drivers handle them.
Beyond the operational benefits discussed in the previous two guides in this series, telematics systems can also be used to effectively manage drivers, offering the opportunity to tailor feedback and development training to each driver’s specific driving practices.
If for example, the telematics data shows that one driver has idling rates above the workforce average, but handles the vehicle efficiently with low instances of harsh braking, acceleration, and cornering, then training can focus down on the one area that is lowering their fuel performance.
As well as being used to guide regular training, telematics data can also be fed back directly to the drivers in the moment. Alerts can be sent to drivers when they exceed speed, idling or harsh braking thresholds, thereby helping to proactively reinforce correct behavior.
Incentives to eco-driving
Many fleets have found substantial savings by using the data from their vehicle telematics systems to create an incentive system that rewards drivers for behaviors that reduce the fleet fuel consumption.
The first challenge with this management practice is in creating a level playing field. If, for example, a municipality wants to cut fuel bills, then measuring and comparing drivers’ total consumption clearly isn’t fair because different vehicles and mileages will skew the results.
Equally, fleet managers must decide whether they wish to reward excellence, or improvement, which may be two very different things.
Leaderboards and scorecards
One management method that can prove to be effective is the use of eco-driving leaderboards, using a combination of data such as average monthly idling rates, fuel efficiency, instances of harsh braking, acceleration and cornering, and accident rates to rank driver performance.
Drivers at the top of the leaderboard may be rewarded with a bonus that could, in turn, be linked to the provision of training to new recruits, with top-ranking drivers gaining the status of ‘coaching eco-driver’.
By coupling this status with a training role, you can give the position a real value and prestige, making it something that your drivers aspire to reach.
When establishing the criteria for assessing drivers on an eco-driving leaderboard, be mindful of the fact that some routes may be inherently more fuel efficient than others, and so drivers may need to be pooled into duty cycle groups, and assessed within these.
For example, a driver with an inner-city route, with a shift that coincides with morning or evening rush hour will have much higher idling rates and lower fuel efficiency than drivers on outer routes that are able to cover long distances at more fuel-efficient speeds.
You will also need to break the leaderboards down by class of vehicle in order to accurately compare the differences in driver performance, as opposed to vehicle performance.
At the end of the day, there is no substitute for getting the best performance out of your drivers than consistent and positive leadership, together with structured training and development.
Reduce accident and maintenance costs
Aggressive driving is the principal cause not only of low fuel efficiency but also of avoidable accidents, burned out clutches and worn out brake pads. As such, the provision of training on fuel-efficient driving not only reduces the fleet’s fuel costs but also has been shown to reduce accident rates and costs associated with vehicle wear and tear. This in turn will help to reduce fleet insurance premiums.
Overcome drivers’ barriers to change
For all of these initiatives to be successfully implemented across your workforce, they must be presented to drivers in a sensitive and timely manner, involving workforce representatives in the decision-making process and taking their feedback and suggestions on board.
As with all employees, drivers can be sensitive to changes in their work practices, and hesitant of additional equipment in their vehicles that monitors and tracks their behavior.
However, most of these barriers can be easily broken down explaining the benefits that the changes will bring to the municipal budget, to the local environment by improving air quality, and to the individual drivers by making them more attractive candidates for future roles in their careers as professional drivers.
Telematics to prevent fraudulent usage
As well as being used to encourage and instill positive behavior, vehicle telematics can also be used to safeguard the municipal fleet budget from fraudulent driver behavior.
Geofences can be established, with alerts sent out to the operations team if the vehicle leaves the designated area, and vehicles can also be set up with authorized shift times, creating alerts if they are utilized outside of this time period.
Fleet management with FleetCarma
FleetCarma’s fleet management software can be fitted to all vehicles in your fleet, and with complete electric vehicle integration, it will continue to help you reduce operational costs and improve driver safety as you transition vehicles to electric.
With FleetCarma’s software, you can view all your fleet data, including distance, fuel efficiency, idle fraction, electricity usage, charging data, emissions, eco-driving and more for each vehicle.
Other than the type of vehicle used, the driver is the single most important factor affecting fuel economy. Speeding, idling, and harsh acceleration & braking all increase fuel consumption and increase emissions of PM, NOx, and other greenhouse gases.
Any management technique that improves driver behavior will reap significant benefits in terms of reduced fuel costs, accidents and insurance premiums, and reduced vehicle wear and tear, as well as reducing your fleet’s impact on the environment.
When all three principals of sustainable fleet management are considered in unison, then the savings across the entire fleet can be significant:
These principals all require ongoing monitoring and target setting, in order to ensure that performance is continually assessed and improved.