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While safety might be the No. 1 priority fleet managers advocate to their drivers on a daily basis, worker productivity also plays a significant role in a fleet’s operation. And whether it’s adding more stops on a route or taking on additional tasks, a schedule that is aimed to make a driver more productive is going to look appealing to upper management. But if drivers are making sacrifices in the safety department as a way to boost the results for the bottom line, the end might not justify the means.
As with other elements in life, a balance between safety and productivity in a fleet operation is important, according to Art Liggio, president and CEO of Driving Dynamics. A solid foundation designed to achieve balance will help keep both fleet managers and drivers accountable.
“While fleet managers understand this equation, many times job descriptions and performance requirements are created in a vacuum. In other words, the drivers’ management team has little to no perspective on how operational demands can affect safety performance. Nor do they understand the high cost that both employers and employees are burdened with when safety is undermined by this imbalance,” said Liggio.
For example, an imbalance could mean an emphasis on drivers packing too much into their work schedule. If a driver were to do this, Liggio said then he or she could begin to exhibit unsafe driving behaviors as a means to complete tasks.
“There is a correlation between inadequately planned or overburdened work schedules and aggressive driving. Drivers will take on additional risk in order to meet their employers’ work assignments,” he said.
Liggio referenced an example in which management at a pharmaceutical fleet increased the workload of its drivers. The company required that its representatives make two additional calls a day. The fleet department ended up with an 8% increase in the number of crashes over the next 12 months after years of relatively stable accident rates. This ultimately affected the company’s bottom line negatively, as the net earnings related to the increased number of calls did not offset the costs due to the increased accident rate.
Adding to the idea of inadequately planned schedules, Liggio said that while employers might set unrealistic goals for their drivers, the fleet drivers themselves must also factor in their day-to-day schedules.
“Employees are often culpable because they fail to plan their work day to maximize the use of their time as well as building some time cushions into their schedule. It is not uncommon during the workday that an unplanned situation (e.g. a traffic delay, customer needs require more time to resolve a problem, etc.) may eat into a planned schedule.”
Liggio said that properly structured scheduling, which can be done by way of route planning, should help eliminate these issues. Liggio said that a gradual utilization of telematics data in fleets might also help with this.
“For many years the companies that are operating the light trucks and passenger vehicles didn’t want telematics at all. Now as its starting to be incorporated, there might a change in the way they are structuring routes so it could be very promising there,” he said