Scorecarding Drivers – Leveraging Your Telemetrics Investment

Many of us have invested in in-cab satellite or cellular based devices that give us critical features like GPS positioning, two-way messaging, act as an EOBR, and possibly provide in-cab scanning and printing. These provide mission critical (or regulatory) functions, but are you taking advantage of the data that many of these devices can give you?

Before we get too far into looking specifically at trucks, keep in mind that telematic devices are also available for trailers, especially for refrigerated trailers. While not the focus of this discussion, don’t ignore your trailer fleet. At a very minimum having a basic tracking device allows you to know where all of your trailers are at any given time. Do you know if that trailer you dropped at your customer in Chattanooga is still there? Has it been moved around their yard to provide “free” warehousing? Did someone hook up to the wrong trailer and is dragging it home when your dispatch team is thinking they have something else. We will look more depth on them in a later article.

Most modern telematic products interface with the vehicle’s computer systems to provide information on what is happening with the truck. These capabilities can include things like road speed, critical events such as hard-braking, and in some cases reporting back any fault codes that get tripped. Some of your staff may be looking at isolated data points, but are you using that data to provide feedback to your drivers to improve their performance?

There will be differences between providers, but in most cases you will have access to a web portal that will allow you to run various reports based on the information that it pulled from the truck. Instead of just looking at it and maybe putting it in a file folder, why not share that information with your drivers?

A couple of low hanging fruit items give you an easy place to start – fuel mileage and idle time. Both items cost you money and they are highly correlated. It’s pretty simple – increased idle time means lower fuel mileage which equals higher costs. Running a newer truck with particulate filters? Excessive idling will mean the exhaust system is not running hot enough to efficiently run the filters so they will built up soot deposits quicker than expected. Your driver will end up doing more regens (so 30-45 minutes of non-revenue generating use of your asset) and the filters will need replacement before their normal life cycle has been used. Again, more money being spent when it didn’t need to be.

A starter score card could just be a graph showing each truck’s fuel mileage. Post it monthly where the drivers can see it and job done, right? Not really. First of all you will want to do a little bit of grouping. If you have a common application such as regional tandem axle dry vans then you could start by separating by manufacturer and by transmission type. Comparing manual transmission trucks with automatics will in many cases put the manual gearbox at a disadvantage. In general we have seen about a half mile per gallon improvement with the automatics over a similarly spec’d truck with a manual transmission. You will want to also look at application – comparing a driver who does regional work in relatively flat Ohio with a driver who does a Detroit to Atlanta route that runs through the mountains in Kentucky and Tennessee should favor the regional truck. Similarly you will want to group tandem axle dry van haulers separate from multi-axle flatbeds.

Next thing you want to do is do a silent start. Create the graphs and look with your project group at who the bottom performers are, followed by doing a root cause analysis as to why they are poor performers. Do they have trucks with no APU or bunk heaters so they have to idle the truck more in the cold and the heat? Do they have the most up to date software on their various modules and are the parameters set up properly? You want to make sure that you are setting your employees up to succeed – especially given that success means improved profitability for you. Neglect to level off the playing field and your drivers will ignore what you want them to do. The last thing you want them to feel is that their own behavior will not affect their ranking. This is even more important if you tie in some sort of bonus or sharing system. Just as important is picking a goal line that is achievable. If your fleet average is 6.6 mpg, don’t set a target of 8. That might be your eventual goal but if you have 100 trucks and only your 5 newest trucks have any chance of meeting the target you will find that the project fails. The drivers who are getting in the sixes will not see a chance of meeting the goal and probably will not even try. Even drivers in the low sevens will likely see the deck as being stacked against them and only put a minimal amount of effort into reaching it. Set the goal at something that you can get an about 60% attainment rate within a few months. Yes, some drivers will exceed the goal without any effort but those drivers will likely be motivated by trying to be the king of the hill. The lower performers will see the goal as being possible and that’s really what you want. After a couple of months of getting that 60% attainment and seeing improvement towards the goal by the ones not attaining it, move the goal by a small amount – say go from 7.0 mpg to 7.05. Continue to move the goal gradually until you start seeing the lower performers having an increased difficulty in reaching it. What that magic number is on each metric will vary between companies and even divisions. Be a little patient and be open with your drivers that setting a goal is more art than science at the start.

To make the above even more effective, add in their inter trip idle times (if that data is available). Inter trip idle time should remove time spent waiting at stop lights and the pre and post trip inspections. This cuts out any idle time that is difficult for the driver to avoid. As much as possible you want to show the idle time that they control – things like leaving the truck running while being unloaded or while running in to the truck stop. Let them see that drivers who do similar work get better mileage if they idle less.

Eventually you can move into items like the percentage of time spent in top gear, cruise control time, or over speed time based on what you want to accomplish. Regardless of what you want to measure, add items over time to keep it easier for your drivers to control their behavior in ways that they see a return.

The final thing to consider is: what will the drivers get out of it? Be certain that this does not get seen as another stick that the drivers get beat with. Specifically do not use it (at least not at the start) as a punishment tool – use it as a teaching moment. Review the data with your lower performers and show them ways to improve what they are doing. In a lot of cases they may not even be aware of why their performance is behind their peers. Consider giving little rewards such as coffee cards things like free showers to drivers who improve their performance. Give rewards to the top performers as you want to keep them there, but offer some incentives to those drivers who put the effort in to improve their standing. Taking a driver that was getting 6.5 mpg to 7 mpg gives a better return than taking someone from 7.5 to 7.6 mpg. At the end of the day you are wanting to improve your company’s bottom line by taking data that you are already getting to influence behavior that increases productivity and effectiveness. You have already invested in the tools, it’s time to take them to the next level and improve the return on that investment.