Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

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.



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.


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.


Fuel Consumption Variation

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

Answer: Emily Atwell, team leader – fuel for ARI.

Not surprisingly, heavy-duty trucks, buses, and vans use more fuel than light-duty trucks and cars. Heavy-duty trucks (specifically Class 8 trucks) use the most fuel compared to other asset classes. There are many factors that come into play when looking at fuel consumption, but the two prevailing influences are total miles driven and fuel economy. Miles driven is directly related to fuel consumption. That is, more miles driven leads to more consumption of fuel. Fuel economy and fuel consumption are inversely correlated, meaning if there is a low fuel economy, more fuel will be consumed. For example, a Class 8 truck that travels many miles per year and has a low mpg will be at the top of the charts for fuel consumption.



AF: What are best practices in reducing fuel consumption?

There are many ways to reduce a vehicle’s fuel consumption. Making sure tires are inflated to the correct pressure is a huge factor in reducing fuel consumption. According to Automotive Fleet, if a tire is underinflated by 4-5 psi below the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure, fuel consumption increases by 10%. Other best practices include eliminating excess weight, following recommended preventive maintenance schedules, monitoring air conditioner usage, and making the vehicle more aerodynamic (e.g., keeping windows closed). Fleet managers should also consider route optimization and the value of a managed fuel network available by partnering with an FMC to help control purchase costs.

Companies should also train drivers on the basics of fuel consumption, help them to understand how their driving behavior affects fuel economy, and teach them techniques for maximizing fuel mileage. Emphasis should be placed on avoiding aggressive driving behaviors, which drive up fuel consumption, as well as techniques for preventing excessive idling. Some fleets have even gone so far as to enlist and motivate drivers to manage fuel consumption, providing incentives for those who meet specific targets and offering regular feedback on how their performance affects the performance of the overall fleet.

PM Compliance

(Percentage PM done during designated interval)

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

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

Without question, fleet application drives preventive maintenance (PM) compliance. For example, a sales fleet can easily go into any quick lube shop and get an oil change or other preventive maintenance. Complex fleets tend to have a more detailed checklist to satisfy a PM, which, in turn, means greater downtime and the need for skilled tradesmen to inspect the units. Generally, smaller, less complex vehicles allow for greater PM compliance. The larger and more complex the vehicle, the more likely it is going to need a specific kind of technician, which very often leads to greater down time. This causes the unit to be in more demand and less PM compliant.  

AF: What are best practices in increasing PM compliance?

Adopt a well-defined and structured PM compliance program that includes well-communicated driver policies and regularly scheduled preventive maintenance and inspections based on manufacturer guidelines. Monitor and enforce compliance through an FMC or maintenance system and keep detailed PM and work order records. Finally, train drivers and supervisors on the program, safety policies and regulatory requirements so that you can gain their buy-in and support.

Maintenance Cost Variation by Drivers in Comparable Vehicles

AF: How does maintenance cost variations by drivers in comparable vehicles vary between asset types? What are the reasons for these differences?

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

When a unit has one driver assigned to it during its fleet life, there tends to be greater attention to detail on the health of the unit. The driver tends to drive the unit with more passion and care. When a unit has multiple drivers assigned to it during its fleet life, there tends to be greater abuse and longer PM intervals as the unit does not have a single manager of its maintenance. This increases its maintenance costs and down time.

AF: What are best practices in minimizing maintenance cost variation?

Not surprisingly, following the manufacturer’s specifications and recommendations for PM intervals is one of the best things a fleet can do to minimize maintenance cost variation. And, similar to PM compliance, fleet managers should train drivers on the importance of preventive maintenance and enlist their support.

Parking Tickets and Citations for Moving Violations

AF: How do parking tickets and other moving violations vary between asset types? What are the reasons for these differences?

Answer: Adele Shaffer, manager, licensing & compliance for ARI.



Obviously some fleets — those involved in off-road construction or other heavy-duty applications — have far fewer (if any) parking tickets. The fleets that generally have the most violations when it comes to parking and other moving violations are those that are routinely on the streets and highways as a usual course of business, such as sales fleets, delivery fleets, service fleets, etc.

AF: What are the best practices in reducing the incidence of parking tickets and other violations?

There are two critical elements that a fleet should have in place in order to manage parking tickets and other moving violations: an established fleet policy for driver responsibility and a reporting mechanism to hold drivers accountable for infractions. This will help establish an expectation on the part of the organization with regard to the driver and help to manage violations quickly and efficiently when they do occur. Fleets should also consider targeted driver training based on the type of violation.

Seat-Belt Usage

AF: How does seat-belt usage vary between asset types? What are the reasons for these differences?

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



Truck drivers tend to use safety belts less frequently than drivers of small vehicles, despite the fact that wearing a safety belt is one of the most effective steps a driver can take to keep themselves safe in a crash. It’s unclear why truck drivers are less likely to wear their safety belts; perhaps they feel as if the size of the vehicle will protect them or that traveling at lower speeds means they don’t have to wear their safety belt or they are at less risk. A disproportionately high percentage of truck driver fatalities, however, are the result of not wearing a safety belt and fleets are strongly encouraged to make the wearing of a safety belt part of their overall driver policy.

AF: What are best practices to increasing seat belt usage?

Fleets should make the dangers of not using a safety belt part of their overall training for drivers — and include what happens to a human body in a crash and how to properly wear a safety belt — so they can understand the implications of not wearing it. Including a requirement that all drivers must wear their safety belts as part of an overall safety policy is also recommended.

Cell-Phone Usage while Driving

AF: How does cell phone usage while driving vary between asset types? What are the reasons for these differences?

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

Unfortunately, the data shows that cell-phone use is consistent across vehicle types — there is no data to suggest any difference between cell-phone usage in large vehicles as compared to small vehicles. I say unfortunately because the usage should be zero.

AF: What are best practices in reducing cell-phone usage while driving?

Fleets must take a hard line when it comes to cell-phone usage while driving. Making it part of a comprehensive safety policy that is well communicated to your drivers is a natural first step. But, fleets should also proactively train their drivers so they have an understanding of the danger that is involved while driving and using a cell phone. Fleets should remind drivers that there is no significant difference between hand-held and hands-free and must enforce the policy every single time there is a violation.

Vehicle Crash Rate

AF: How do vehicle crash rates vary between asset types? What are the reasons for these differences?

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

Statistically, large trucks have a lower crash rate than cars. Perhaps that is due to the additional training required for CDL drivers. However, crash rates vary significantly by industry and use. For example, car sales fleets tend to have a higher crash rate than large truck transportation fleets. In terms of overall cost, large vehicle crashes tend to result in higher costs than car crashes, both in terms of vehicle damage and injuries.

AF: What are best practices in reducing vehicle crash rates?

Training, training, training. Fleets must commit to providing regular training for their drivers, especially with regard to techniques and behaviors that will allow them to proactively avoid crashes. Fleets should also have a comprehensive safety policy that is supported by leadership and clearly communicated to every driver.

Telematics are beginning to provide fleet managers with additional insight into how their drivers are behaving and this allows them to be more proactive about drivers that may have adopted poor habits but have not had any serious crashes (yet).

About the author
Mike Antich

Mike Antich

Editor and Associate Publisher

Mike Antich has covered fleet management and remarketing for more than 20 years and was inducted in the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2010 and inducted in the Global Fleet of Hal in 2022. He also won the Industry Icon Award presented jointly by the IARA and NAAA industry associations.

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