Help your drivers help themselves: how to correct risky and inefficient driving habits

Bad driving behaviour is one of the most challenging problems a fleet manager has to tackle. The impact is varied, ranging from health and safety issues to company reputation.

Examples of poor driver behaviour include:

  • Accidents
  • Speeding
  • Excessive idling
  • Aggressive acceleration
  • Harsh braking
  • Sudden deceleration
  • Fast cornering
  • Using mobile phones
  • Texting while driving
  • Failure to wear seat belts
  • Parking tickets

With GPS fleet management technology or telematics, it’s now possible to track how individual drivers are behaving on the road.

Some habits, such as speeding and harsh braking, have cost implications because they will both lead to increased fuel consumption and greater wear and tear on your vehicles.  They may also affect the safety of the driver, other road users and pedestrians.

Others, including texting and mobile phone use while driving, plus failure to wear seat belts, are not just unsafe but illegal and must be treated with the utmost seriousness and dealt with immediately.

The driving behaviour of your employees can also negatively impact your company’s reputation.

However, it’s also important to remember that everyone makes mistakes. Your challenge is to use the data, weed out the persistent offenders and correct their bad habits – and to make sure new recruits get the best training.

Tips for tackling poor driver behaviour

Communicate expectations

Set out guidelines to your workforce, making it clear what is acceptable, what is not, the implications and how you are going to help them achieve their goals. However, they must also be made aware of the consequences of their actions. There should be a clear disciplinary process which might include verbal and written warnings, withheld bonuses and, ultimately, termination of contract.

Monitor driver behaviour

Traditionally employees’ motor vehicle records (MVRs) have been used to assess driver behaviour. They log a driving history encompassing things like speeding tickets, collisions they have caused and insurance claims. However, modern systems such as telematics software tracks high-risk driver behaviour, gathering real-time data and metrics on everything from excessive speed and acceleration to harsh cornering and hard braking.

Educate drivers

Provide regular individual driver-tailored feedback based on hard data. Identify a plan to reduce risk and a timeline for expected results and offer training, if necessary, to correct any failings.

Recognise the best

Acknowledge and praise the low-risk drivers’ behaviour to reinforce their positive habits. You might want to present awards for the lowest fuel consumption levels, for instance. Or you could consider setting up a leaderboard based on the ability to drive safely and efficiently.

Training

If necessary, enhance the screening of candidates for jobs by carrying out background checks and perhaps even asking them to complete a preliminary driving test to assess their behaviour on the road. The hiring process may take more time, but it will pay off in the future. Also, when new recruits are taken on, make sure they are fully trained and made aware of your expectations and the possible consequences.

And it’s not just new recruits that benefit from training. Regular training and refresher courses are not only useful but in many countries mandatory for experienced drivers. Courses can help inform all drivers of heavy goods vehicles (HGV) or large goods vehicles (LGV) of the requirements they need to remain compliant.

There are also legal requirements for HGV that drivers must undertake. In the UK, drivers must undertake 35 hours of periodic training every five years as well as renew their licence every five years when they reach 45 and every year when they reach 65.

Act fast

Things can go wrong, even with the best guidelines and training. If there is an incident such as an accident, action should be taken immediately in order to reinforce safe driving expectations. The action may include driver training or ride-along observations – or a disciplinary in serious cases.

Finally, don’t forget that you have a duty of care to your drivers. You need to keep them safe and make sure that the general public is safe from their actions.

It also should go without saying that if you want your workforce to drive professionally, you must make sure they have well-maintained vehicles at their disposal.

Source: Fluid Thinking – Shell

Shell V-Power: the ultimate protection for a long life on the road

There’s no escaping the fact that fuel cost and fuel efficiency is a daily concern for the fleet manager. When companies are battling rising costs elsewhere as well as facing price competition from contenders in their marketplace, your fuel supplier has to justify every penny of that cost to you.

Which is why when that same supplier is asking you to budget for a premium product, the benefits had better stack up.

Even for experienced drivers and managers, it can be hard to tell at a glance what difference a premium fuel makes to fleet efficiency and effectiveness. It looks the same going in at the pump, the engine sounds the same on the road. But it’s under the bonnet where Shell V-Power is making the real improvements.

One of its most important components is Friction Modification Technology. There’s always going to be some loss of power as engine parts rub against each other, generating heat rather than road speed. Introducing Friction Modification reduces that power loss, delivering more miles for your money.

Shell V-Power

Next on the list is the cleaning and protection technology. Shell V-Power fuel removes the carbon build-up created by standard fuels and prolonged driving. Why do you want to avoid build-up? Quite simply the gunk left behind makes combustion harder and so your engines aren’t as efficient as they could be.

On top of this, standard fuel deposits in your engine encourage corrosion making for more maintenance and less longevity. Shell V-Power contains anti-corrosion chemicals that help protect against rust meaning fewer repairs and less fleet downtime.

A cleaner engine is a more efficient engine. It also makes for cleaner driving. All companies, Shell included, are actively working towards reducing emissions as part of their social responsibility remit. Something as simple as filling up at the pump can go a long way to help us meet our obligations.

Shell V Power

As a fleet manager, weigh up where your costs are incurred, versus how much you want to spend on fuel. It’s important to take the long term view. Premium fuels will deliver greater road miles to some types of vehicles more than others and we would always advise you check with your manufacturer. However all vehicles, from small engine company cars to large delivery trucks, can benefit from the cleaning and protection technologies within Shell V-Power.

Few managers could claim to be sending a fleet of Formula 1 supercars round their routes but with Shell V-Power they at least get to enjoy the technical expertise behind Scuderia Ferrari. With 99% of the same composition as the fuel that powers the Ferrari F1 team, Shell V-Power puts high octane unleaded and high cetane diesel to work across your whole fleet. It’s a small investment for great returns on efficiency, lower emissions and cost savings.

Source: Fluid Thinking – Shell

Setting goals for the new financial year

The new financial year is a time to take stock and refresh your objectives. Here are some tactics to keep you on course to meet your goals.

Goal setting for a new financial year can be challenging. The best way to manage any curve balls is to make sure you have a solid plan for the next 12 months that focuses on achievable business aims without leaving you vulnerable to unexpected events.

Here are three principles to bear in mind when setting and working towards goals.

  1. SWOT and SMART

Most managers are aware of the idea of the SWOT analysis. The plan is to identify Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT). There is a lot to be said for understanding what you are good at, where you could improve, where the business can genuinely move forward and what could derail those plans.

When performing a SWOT analysis there’s no point trying to gloss over problems. They’ll only crop up further down the line and the results could be even more devastating than if you try to address them now.

If SWOT is about assessing the past, SMART is about building for the future. Creating SMART goals are about being Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.

There is nothing more than common sense in both of these tactics but they apply to businesses both startup and global. Setting SMART goals is about making sure you take an objective view of what is best for your fleet in the coming 12 months.

  1. Get the CFO on board

Much of the friction, particularly in larger organisations, comes from budget allocation. The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is under pressure from the board to drive efficiency, year in year out. Maximising the working capital is above all what makes the business look competitive and an attractive prospect to investors and shareholders.

There is a growing range of financial instruments managers can use to keep on top of costs. One such is the expenses management system, or EMS.

This is more than just receipts from the corner shop. An EMS is a dashboard that allows managers to see all their budgeting in one place including the terms of payment for various suppliers.

Increasingly too, corporate banks are encouraging their customers to use corporate credit cards for large purchases – in excess of tens of thousands. This is because invoicing terms are traditionally 30 or 60 days but by paying using a corporate credit card it is possible to extend this period, interest free, for a further 30 days at least. This increases the period the business has to recoup that expenditure (through selling its own goods or services) and therefore improves the working capital. Making for an altogether happier CFO.

  1. Set KPIs

In this day and age we are lucky to be able to run our fleets using a number of sophisticated technologies and software. Much of the benefit of these technologies is sold to us on the basis that the results they give are so measurable.

This is great news – to a degree. The problem can be that the results the tech companies are keen to sell us aren’t necessarily the results we need to keep our business on track.

KPIs are Key Performance Indicators. They are the indicators of the performance of our business, not the technologies we use to run it. Losing sight of the real measures of success is easier in larger fleets than small operations. In the latter, the result of any action is so much closer to home. In companies with multiple moving parts, it can be harder to keep an eye on the ultimate goal.

As fleet managers we need to understand what the critical measures are that will tell us if we are hitting our targets for the coming financial year.

The final myth around KPIs is that any successful business has to measure against tens or hundreds of them. In reality just a handful of absolutely critical measurements should be enough.

  1. Be agile

While it’s important to set a goal and not deviate from it, it’s also important how you get there.

We said at the start that, while a business can project its hopes for the next 12 months, there’s no guarantee the market will cooperate. This is why it’s important to allow your business to be agile in the way it tries to accomplish its goals.

Be open to new ideas and put in place a culture that allows for change. This could involve regular review meetings, contingency funds or building in capacity for employees to take time to explore other projects.

Make it clear that any deviation has to be supported by strong business arguments. Employees should understand how to use research to explore and validate new ideas; be able to put forward arguments in a business context and be able to project outcomes according to established business goals.

Source: Fluid Thinking – Shell

Your career: are you stressed?

We can all sometimes feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day and for fleet managers this can be doubly true. You’re managing not just your own work schedule but one for tens, hundreds and sometimes, thousands of people. Not everything that needs to be dealt with happens between nine and five and not every problem can be fixed. But somehow, you have to find a way.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) describes stress officially as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’. It also points out that stress can cause heart disease, headaches, stomach problems, sleeplessness, anxiety and depression and lead to drug and alcohol dependency.

Everyone’s ‘excessive pressure’ is different but we know that more technology and demands from the business means that fleet managers are expected to juggle a whole range of responsibilities. In a 24/7 world it can sometimes feel like we never leave work.

Managing stress doesn’t mean making deadlines disappear. Getting on top of stress means making sure they don’t become overwhelming. Perhaps it’s about setting standards in your workplace, improving the lines of communication, managing expectations from drivers and management and even giving yourself a talking-to once in a while. Sometimes we can be our own worst enemies.

Too many demands on your time

You can’t be everywhere at once. Look at how you’re dividing up your time and what you’re being asked to do. Are you being asked to do things that aren’t really your job? Perhaps you’re taking on some tasks because it’s faster than getting someone else to do it. Delegation is a skill and you shouldn’t feel guilty about spreading the load.

Prioritise your time. If you are getting pressure from other departments or from line management, give a good reason why some jobs will be better left until later or done by someone else. You may well have become the ‘go to’ person in everyone’s minds because you’re just too damn good!

Take time to train. It can seem impossible when your day job pushes you into overtime just trying to get the usual tasks done but investing time in training someone else frees you up in the long run.

Stress busters

Talk. Let your manager know you are feeling stressed and help them understand your situation so they can something about it. If your work culture doesn’t seem to support this, lead by example. Show by supporting your own team through stress that the business will benefit if it works on reducing stress. Stress is also proven to be lower in people who are able to help others. But don’t take on extra burdens.

Take your time. It can seem like there is never a right time but you do no-one any favours in the long run by not taking holiday or time off when you’re sick. Plan for it where you can but don’t be a slave to your phone. If the stress of ignoring your work on holiday is worse than being at work, set aside one half an hour every couple of days where you will be contactable and let everyone know that is that.

Exercise. Fresh air and exercise are proven mood lifters as well as good for physical health. You don’t need an on-site gym or expensive equipment. Walk round the outside of the building during lunch, be active while at home. No-one’s asking you to drop and do twenty. A stroll could do the trick.

Eat well. It can seem hard to squeeze in healthy eating but your body needs the right fuel too. Preparing your own food to take to work may require a little thought and organisation at the beginning. But with a few tools like a recipe book aimed at packed lunches and a good selection of boxes and pots, you can get into the good mood food habit easily.

 

Source: Fluid Thinking – Shell