The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Fleet Driver Behavior Improves for Larger Vehicles

April 2018, by Eric Gandarilla - Also by this author

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Last year, fleet drivers in light-duty vehicles had higher rates of idling, speeding, fast acceleration, and harsh braking when compared to drivers in larger vehicles.

In many instances smaller vehicles such as cars, SUVs, and light trucks saw nearly double the number of infractions as larger vehicles such as medium-duty trucks, heavy duty trucks, and vans. 

In most instances, year-over-year comparisons found that the number infractions grew among smaller vehicles and declined for larger vehicles. 

This data was gathered from approximately 105,000 fleet vehicles and analyzed by ARI and Automotive Fleet, and used to produce this year’s Driver Scorecard Benchmarking Survey report. This year's report found an overall improvement in driver behavior as the improvements among larger vehicles offset the declines from the smaller ones. 

Different in this year’s Driver Scorecard Benchmarking Survey was a central focus on harsh braking, fast acceleration, speeding, and idling. Within each category, infractions from six vehicle segments are assessed. Those vehicle segments are: cars, SUVs, light-duty trucks, medium-duty trucks, heavy duty trucks, and vans.

Each vehicle segment experienced its own growth or decline in infractions, however, for the sake of painting an overall picture of each category, individual growths or declines were averaged to find whether a particular category improved or regressed this year.

One trend observed this year was a split in performance by light-duty vehicles such as cars, SUVs, and trucks and larger vehicles such as medium-duty trucks, heavy duty trucks, and vans. On more occasions, across all categories, lighter vehicles committed more infractions than the larger vehicles.

Now in its third year, the Driver Scorecard Benchmarking Survey stems from a partnership between Automotive Fleet and ARI. The goal of the survey is to aggregate driver behavior data in order to use it as an industry benchmark to assess driver behavior behind the wheel of all types of fleet vehicles.

The amount of vehicles analyzed this year is up 20% as compared to last year’s report. One benefit of this growth in sample size is a better representation of what driver behavior is actually like among analyzed vehicle segments, noted Don Woods, director, client information systems at ARI.

“This year it looks like infractions were primarily committed by SUVs and cars. This could be for a few reasons such as the penetration of the SUV market being higher, resulting in a better representation of the segment and the number of cars in the market may be declining meaning that the percentages are represented by a smaller sample size,” said Woods.

This is also representative of a key trend in this space. For most fleets, medium-duty trucks, heavy duty trucks and vans were typically among the early adopters of telematics devices. Now, those segments are beginning to see the benefits of monitoring driver behavior and the corrective training is becoming more evident in the scorecard data, noted Woods.

Conversely, cars and SUVs are just now beginning to integrate the use of telematics on a large scale so the scorecard data provides a clearer picture of driver behavior but the corrective measures are still catching up to what the data has helped highlight.

One final aspect to keep in mind regarding the infractions tracked by the Driver Scorecard Benchmarking Survey is that the vehicles committing infractions account for a miniscule percentage of the 105,000 vehicles observed for this report. In fact, most categories see anywhere between .3% and 1% of reported vehicles committing infractions.

While certain categories have seen growth in infractions this year, the overall percentage of vehicles committing infractions remains low.

Fleet Idling Infractions Up for 2018

The largest increase observed this year was in the idling category. Cars, SUVs, and light-duty trucks all saw significant growth in idling while medium-duty trucks, heavy duty trucks, and vans saw a reduction in idling.

“The big increases in idling were on the lighter duty vehicles, those that might be driven for personal use. The rise could be attributable to drivers not being engaged by their companies in an effort to reduce idling,” said Woods.

Half of the vehicle segments tracked in this report posted a reduction in idling while the other half posted growth, the percentage of idling growth within the light-duty segments outpaced the reduction experienced by the heavier duty vehicles.

Chart courtesy of ARI.
Chart courtesy of ARI.

Idling was considered minor if it occurred for 5-10 minutes; moderate if it occurred for 10-20 minutes; and exces-sive if it occurred for 20 or more minutes.

Tallying up minor, moderate, and excessive idling numbers for cars finds that roughly 10.1% of all cars tracked in this year’s report committed idling infractions, nearly double the amount in last year’s report.

Tallying up those same categories for SUVs finds that nearly 10.6% of all SUVs tracked in this report committed idling infractions, also double the amount of last year’s report. Light-duty trucks had nearly three times as many idling infractions this year, with 6% of trucks tracked this year committing idling infractions.

Heavy-duty trucks remained essentially the same from last year in terms of idling. Vans saw an overall 3% reduction in idling. The biggest reduction in idling, however, came to the medium-duty segment. Idling data found that this year, 1.8% of medium-duty trucks committed some sort of idling. Last year, that number was 8.7%, marking a 6.9% reduction in overall idling for medium-duty trucks this year.

Chart courtesy of ARI.
Chart courtesy of ARI.

“Medium-duty, heavy-duty, and vans are better regulated vehicle seg-ments. Companies place a heavy emphasis on the way these vehicles are utilized, and so they drive change within the organization, which is resulting in these numbers,” said Woods.

For fleets looking to reduce the amount their drivers are idling, Woods recommends more engagement with drivers in order to change behavior.

“Whether it is through an incentive program or education, keep a sharper eye on idling from your assets to better manage them. Manage by exception, take your worst offenders and bring them toward the middle of your curve. Then, readjust your curve and see who are your outliers and manage them toward the middle again until you’re happy with your performance,” said Woods.

He noted that often times 10% of a fleet commits 70% of infractions so better management for those outliers can have a big effect.

Fast Acceleration, Harsh Braking, and Speeding Down for 2018

Overall instances of fast acceleration, harsh braking, and speeding were down this year.

As was the case in the idling category, lighter vehicles posted a higher percentage of infractions while larger vehicles remained flat or improved from last year. Unlike the idling category, however, the reductions observed by the larger segments offset the growth observed by the lighter segments, producing an overall reduction within the harsh braking, fast acceleration, and speeding categories.

In the harsh braking category, vehicles in the car segment saw a .7% rise in the number of harsh braking infractions; SUVs saw a .5% rise; light-duty trucks saw a 1.4% rise; medium-duty trucks saw a 1.8% drop; heavy-duty trucks saw a 0.2% drop; and vans saw a 1.7% drop.

Chart courtesy of ARI.
Chart courtesy of ARI.

“It is important to note that cars and SUVs, which were up, are often provided to drivers for both personal and busi-ness use. Medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks, along with vans, are really only used for work purposes and those segments are a little more mature in their use of telematics programs, the way their drivers are managed, and how safety is addressed,” said Woods.

To provide some reasoning as to why harsh braking was up among lighter vehicles, Woods used a typical pharmaceutical fleet as an example. A pharmaceutical fleet has their associates driving company cars throughout the day; then at night and weekends, they get to take the vehicles home.

Chart courtesy of ARI.
Chart courtesy of ARI.

This extra time these vehicles are driven outside work hours are not controlled as tightly by the companies. Similarly, cars and SUVs are often part of executive fleets and usually there aren’t programs in place to penalize executives for their infractions.

One method to help reduce instances of harsh braking, along with other infractions, is publishing driver information within the company.

“People don’t want their name appearing on the ‘risky list’ and they start changing their behavior. Just having something where driers realize these things are being looked at helps reduce infractions,” said Woods.

Within the fast acceleration category, cars experienced a 1.8% increase, SUVs experienced a 0.3% reduction, light trucks experienced a 2.1% increase, medium-duty trucks experienced a 2.1% reduction, heavy-duty trucks experienced a 0.3% reduction, and vans experienced a 2.0% reduction.

This category saw the smallest overall change among all categories observed this year. The same trend as the previous two categories followed, larger vehicles experienced a reduction in infractions while lighter vehicles saw an uptick. The exception in this category; however, is the SUV segment, which saw a small reduction in fast acceleration infractions this year.

Chart courtesy of ARI.
Chart courtesy of ARI.

Lastly, the overall instances of speeding were down slightly this year. Most of the changes observed this year occurred in the minor speeding classification, which given the fact that certain parts of the country allow 75 mph as a legal speed, meant the vehicle was driving between 80-90 mph. Instances of moderate (90-100mph) and excessive (over 100 mph) speeding remained essentially unchanged from the year before.

Looking at minor speeding infractions, cars saw no change year-to-year, SUVs experienced a 0.3% reduction, light trucks experienced a 0.5% increase, medium-duty trucks experienced a 0.8% reduction, heavy-duty trucks experienced a 0.1% increase, and vans experienced a 0.4% reduction.

As was the case in every other category tracked this year, medium-duty trucks experienced the biggest reduction in speeding infractions, due to the highly regulated nature of medium-duty trucks.

“These are positive results. It means that the continued use of telematics in the vehicles is having the desired result. We’re seeing speeding behavior stay consistent. Normally when you install telematics devices, you see a correction in behavior right away, but the fact that these numbers continue to remain low is showing that people aren’t chang-ing behavior for a few months and then going back to how they used to drive,” said Woods.

Continued Improvements in Driver Behavior for the Future

While some aspects of driver behavior regressed this year, most aspects improved. There’s an impetus on companies to continue to breed better driving behaviors among their drivers. Technology such as telematics can aid in that effort, but a large portion of the responsibility still lies on the company.

Keeping drivers and the roads they travel on safe should be a main priority, but there’s also the fact that improving driving behavior will improve business operations by reducing the amount of time that assets are non-operational. There’s also the question of liability, telematics data today is providing vast amounts of information, but that information is useless if no action is taken on it. Drivers committing infractions should be addressed to change their behavior and create a plan to reduce their infractions.

If a driver injures or kills someone, a company can be liable for not acting on months of data showing that a driver was constantly speeding. Changing behavior before it gets to that can prevent a lot of damage, noted Woods.

“Telematics programs have an effect on driver behavior. Fleets may be interested in telematics programs to reduce costs, save fuel, lower speeding, protect a brand’s reputation, or many other reasons. But, to promote change, there has to be an understanding that there needs to be engagement with drivers,” said Woods.

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