At Safelite AutoGlass, fleet drivers are literally in the driver’s seat when it comes to safety and fuel efficiency. All drivers were recently required to read and sign off on two new policies centered on distracted driving and telematics — separate programs that both contribute to the fleet’s overall efforts to reduce fuel consumption.
According to Fleet Manager Erin Gilchrist, the telematics initiative alone is expected to help save Safelite AutoGlass a projected 900,000 gallons of fuel in 2013.
“When you have drivers out there driving more safely and being more conscious about their behaviors behind the wheel, you’re going to see fuel reductions,” Gilchrist said.
Pushing for Better Performance
Implementing a telematics solution — the fleet’s major initiative for 2013 — has been a long time coming for Safelite AutoGlass, according to Gilchrist.
The fleet piloted 120 vehicles in three different areas around the country for more than 90 days, and then presented the results to senior management.
“That led to 100-percent deployment of telematics in our fleet, so we’re really excited. It’s something I’ve been evaluating for quite some time,” Gilchrist said. “Our goal was to be close to fully deployed by March 15, and we’ve met that goal.”
In three months and with more than 95 percent of the fleet deployed, Safelite AutoGlass reported consumption reductions of approximately 175,000 gallons.
“Even in the implementation phase we saw a reduction in fuel use,” Gilchrist noted.
The main areas focused on during the pilot were high-risk driver behaviors, fuel consumption, and maintenance.
“Most would consider those the ‘low-hanging fruit’ in terms of newly deployed telematics fleets. The biggest shift you gain in those first 12-18 months is driver behavior modification,” Gilchrist said.
By monitoring high-risk behaviors (e.g., excessive speeding, hard braking, hard cornering, rapid acceleration, and seat belt use), drivers receive a driver risk score. The score places drivers into a high-, medium-, or low-risk driving category based on events and points.
“It color codes the drivers into categories and defines how and why they received their points. So, it’s a tool for managers to coach drivers early and often, and that’s what drives the better behavior week to week,” Gilchrist explained.
In addition to risk, drivers are also scored on idling, which is combined with the risk score. “Idling is a choice, so it’s a behavior we’re addressing right alongside the other risk behaviors. It has an environmental impact and an impact on a vehicle’s life, so it’s a financial impact in many different ways,” Gilchrist said.
Drivers are provided weekly progress reports, as well as aggregated monthly reports. “We’re looking for improvements over 30-, 60-, and 90-day time periods, expecting that drivers would ‘move the needle’ with each session of coaching and counseling with their manager,” she said.
The company is also redefining its driving policy to ensure maximum vehicle utilization and appropriate vehicle assignments by job title.
“The key this year to taking a deep dive into this activity is that, with telematics, we now have the tools to identify and evaluate vehicle use better than we’ve been able to in the past,” Gilchrist said.
In addition, Safelite AutoGlass is also constantly analyzing total cost of ownership to identify vehicles in the fleet that can be shortcycled and replaced by more fuel-efficient vehicles. In 2012, the company replaced more than 120 Chevrolet Impalas with the smaller class-size Ford Fusion and 85 Chevrolet HHRs were replaced with the Ford Focus Hatchback.
Another key initiative is the short-term rental program for the repair fleet named “Flex Fleet” with Enterprise Rent-A-Car. This program will reduce the number of fixed assets in the fleet that do not have full utilization throughout the year. When field locations ramp up with seasonal repair associates, they can order a kit from Fleet (vacuum kit, magnetic graphics, fuel card, etc.) to support their rental vehicles. This program is ongoing and will cut costs while supporting the needs of the business. Safelite is in development with its upfitting partners on how to deploy this program in the installation profile of the fleet as well.
Safelite is also getting ready to develop a pilot for compressed natural gas. Gilchrist said she took the liberty of ordering her capacity trucks with the gaseous prep package from Ford, so those vehicles are ready for conversion.
Gilchrist is hoping the new telematics systems will also be able to provide better understanding of the swing in mpg results (e.g., one driver getting 58 mpg and another getting 30 mpg) with the Chevrolet Volts Safelite’s drivers piloted last year.
Selling to Senior Management
Pilot programs have played a significant role in Gilchrist achieving full support from senior management. The key, she advised, is to show them results.
“Senior leaders take notice when you can give them experience and realized results and that only happens through piloting technology,” she said.
What’s been especially helpful in implementing telematics in the Safelite AutoGlass fleet has been driving home the cost savings from a productivity standpoint and reducing the fleet cost per mobile customers served.
“What tends to resound with managers out in the field is when we say, ‘if you can reduce your cost per mobile customer served by X, then that is direct profit to that glass unit.’ They need to understand the impact programs such as telematics can have on their bottom line — their overall success,” Gilchrist said.
As for getting driver acceptance, Gilchrist said marketing telematics as a safety program is what resonates with drivers. “It takes away that ‘Big Brother’ notion and lets them know we care about their safety and the public’s safety. We need to be responsible environmentally, but then from a safety standpoint, we need the public to feel safe with nearly 5,800 Safelite vehicles on the road. They need to be able to trust us. And, one thing they can trust is that we have a program that encourages our drivers to drive safely,” she said.
While safety and efficiency are key concerns, the overall driving force for everything Safelite does in fleet is the enhancement of its customers’ experience.
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