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The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

How to Assess Driver Behavior and Improve Results

April 2016, by Mike Antich - Also by this author

Image courtesy of iStockphoto.com
Image courtesy of iStockphoto.com

ARI’s driver safety program, ARI Driver Excellence, uses telematics data through connected vehicle technology for real-time data collection of driver behavior.

Automotive Fleet magazine has partnered with ARI to aggregate this driver behavior data to be used as an industry benchmark to assess driver behavior behind the wheel of all types of company vehicles. In next year’s annual survey, AF will track the evolution of these driver behaviors to identify industry best practices.

“In terms of best practices, there are several things every fleet manager should consider implementing, regardless of the immediate challenge they may be facing. From excessive idling, to speeding or harsh braking, preventive maintenance and fuel consumption, there are five universal practices and procedures that can help every fleet improve safety while also increasing efficiency and lowering costs,” said Rich Radi, director, Driver Excellence for ARI.

Below are the five universal best practices and procedures recommended by Radi:

  • Engagement. All stakeholders — from senior leadership to local supervisors — should be engaged in the process of managing driver behavior. To ensure success, senior leadership must support the initiative and communicate that support to everyone within the organization.
  • Policy. It’s absolutely critical that an organization has a well-communicated policy in place that defines acceptable driving practices as well as standard driving performance expectations, and that drivers fully comprehend the organization’s policies.
  • Training. New hires should receive onboarding assessments and training. Existing drivers should receive regular driver training to keep safety fresh in their minds. Violators should receive remedial training to help them improve deficient skills.
  • Measurement and Scoring. Organizations need to measure driving behavior through regular MVR checks and real-time evaluation of the data provided by telematics. Drivers should be scored for their driving performance based on comprehensive data sources. Whenever a driver exceeds the organization’s threshold for a given data parameter, the driver should be assigned points. Points should be tracked, aggregated, and categorized in order to identify high-risk drivers, as well as consistently safe drivers.
  • Immediate Management Action. When an event occurs — whether it is an accident, an infraction, a violation, or exceeding a set organization threshold — it is critical that action be taken immediately to improve the driver’s behavior. The action may include driver training, supervisor coaching, or ride-along observations, but it needs to be immediate in order to reinforce safe driving expectations.

Excessive Idling

AF: How is excessive idling defined?

Answer: Romy Bria, director, fleet management for ARI.

Bria
Bria

Excessive idling can vary depending on the state; each state has its own laws with regard to excessive idling. It can also vary based on industry and how the vehicle is being used. What may be considered excessive by one organization may be considered routine by another. It is important for every organization to determine what is appropriate for their specific needs and what the laws are in their state and factor that into an overall assessment of and recommendation for their fleet.

It is something for every fleet to consider; however, because excessive idling can not only affect fuel consumption but also preventive maintenance schedules. One estimate suggests that one hour of idle time is equal to approximately 25 miles of driving. Generally, it is recommended that fleets follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for minimum warm-up time. Additionally, ensuring that you have access to your fleet’s data, establishing an appropriate baseline that reflects your fleet and your industry, and tracking/managing idling time is the best approach.

AF: How does excessive idling vary between asset types? What are the reasons for these differences?

Assets and vehicles idling will vary depending on their location and function. For example, delivery vehicles may idle while parked; tractor trailer trucks often idle to maintain a comfortable cab temperature. Heavy-duty vehicles often carry auxiliary equipment, such as safety lights or aerial lifts that require the truck to idle in order to provide power to that equipment.

And, transit vehicles idle daily while loading and unloading passengers. The best approach for any fleet manager is to determine what the baseline should be for your industry and application and go from there in terms of evaluating your own fleet.

Courtesy of ARI
Courtesy of ARI

AF: What are best practices in decreasing excessive idling?

There are technologies that can help fleets manage idle time. For example, modern vehicles can be programmed to have their engines automatically shut down after a preselected time frame, such as five minutes. For vehicles in colder climates, electric engine heaters (e.g., block heaters) can minimize idling time as the vehicle warms up. For fleets that have equipment that needs power, installing generators or auxiliary power units is a more efficient alternative to vehicle idling. 

While newer technologies can help manage idle time, one of the most effective ways to manage idling is to properly train your drivers. In fact, studies have shown that most drivers underestimate idle time. Helping drivers to understand the impact of idling on fuel economy and preventive maintenance schedules can go a long way towards managing excessive idling within your fleet. Fleets should consider proactively implementing a campaign that encourages drivers to turn off the engine when the vehicle is not in motion, and let drivers know that turning the engine off, then back on (even if only for a short time) is not bad for the starter in modern vehicles. They should also inform drivers with regard to the manufacturer’s recommendations for warm-up time and for cool-down after load operation.

Speeding

AF: How does speeding vary between asset types? What are the reasons for these differences?

Answer: Rich Radi, director, Driver Excellence for ARI

Due to their weight and momentum, excessive speed in vans and trucks is more dangerous because these vehicles are simply harder to stop. And, the consequences of a collision can be more severe with larger vehicles. The larger the vehicle, the more momentum it has at any given speed. This is why larger vehicles should be driven at less than the posted speed limit. And, for all other vehicles, drivers should be directed to drive within the posted speed limit.

Courtesy of ARI
Courtesy of ARI

AF: What are best practices in reducing driver speeding?

With regard to training, drivers should understand the implications of speed, weight, and momentum. They should also understand the implications of speed with regard to traction — the faster the speed, the less traction a vehicle has. Training should also emphasize that “excessive speed” not only means exceeding the speed limit, it also means going too fast for the current conditions, even though the vehicle may be traveling less than the speed limit. Drivers must know how to manage their speed in both good and adverse conditions.

Aggressive Acceleration & Harsh Braking/Sudden Deceleration

AF: How do aggressive acceleration, harsh braking and/or sudden deceleration vary between asset types? What are the reasons for these differences?

Courtesy of ARI
Courtesy of ARI

Answer: Rich Radi, director, Driver Excellence for ARI.

While larger vehicles typically do not accelerate as quickly as smaller vehicles due to their greater mass, they generally achieve greater momentum for the same reason, which means the vehicle is harder to stop. Drivers who may be unaware of this fact can quickly get into trouble with regard to aggressive acceleration and harsh braking or sudden deceleration. Add to that the tendency of drivers in larger vehicles to have a feeling of invincibility because they are surrounded by such a large machine, and this can lead to more aggressive behavior. At the end of the day, acceleration is still a function of driver behavior and the power of the vehicle and an aggressive driver in a large vehicle (with a lot of power) is just as dangerous as an aggressive driver in a smaller vehicle.

AF: What are best practices in reducing aggressive acceleration?

Courtesy of ARI
Courtesy of ARI

Drivers need to be trained to understand the implication of aggressive driving and how to control their emotions. Aggressive acceleration is first and foremost a safety issue but it also wastes fuel and adds wear and tear to your vehicles. Teaching drivers responsible techniques and incorporating them into your overall driver policy is one of the best ways to control aggressive driving behavior.

Fast Cornering

AF: How does fast cornering vary between asset types? What are the reasons for these differences?

Answer: Rich Radi, director, Driver Excellence for ARI.

Again, due to their greater mass, larger vehicles have more momentum and typically have a higher center of gravity, so fast cornering can cause the driver to lose control more quickly than in smaller vehicles.

Courtesy of ARI
Courtesy of ARI

AF: What are best practices in reducing fast cornering?

As with most problematic driving behaviors, training is the best solution. Drivers need to be instructed, especially with regard to medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, on safe driving techniques. Larger vehicles need more space to turn and maneuver — especially at intersections and with regard to turns. Whatever minimal time is saved by over-accelerating through a turn is not worth the risk that is created by such behavior.

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