Lowering bottom-line costs while keeping your trucks

Published in the September 2018 issue of Fleet Affiliation

One challenge within the work truck industry is continuing to find ways to reduce bottom-line costs. As a spec writer, you have taken the care and research to design a work truck accounting for acquisition fees, suitability for job performance, maintenance and all operating costs. Essentially, you have looked at the total cost of ownership, and even projected some life-cycle cost analysis for the asset. Additionally, you have a top maintenance program in-house or have the most qualified personnel in place. At the end of the day, you’ve done everything within your control to provide a tool that is the most efficient, safe and cost-effective option for your organization to get the job done. These are some of the most critical aspects to running an efficient fleet, but it’s good to consider what more you can do to control costs without sacrificing job performance. One avenue not often at the forefront is addressing the way vehicles are actually operated on a day-to-day basis. Once the vehicle pulls out of the yard for the workday, there is little control you have on exactly how the vehicle is operated. Driver behavior has direct influence on the operating costs of your work truck fleet. Looking at some drive cycle scenarios, driver behavior can translate into as much as 30-percent variation in total fuel consumption. Other key elements include premature maintenance on wearable items such as brakes and suspension components. 

What can be done?
As fleet manager, you are continually tasked with lowering costs. Driver behavior is a huge factor. However, before implementing a program, it is important to take a global perspective of your organization, identifying any limiting factors and working within these restrictions. These may include labor relations, contractual issues and upper management guidelines. It is imperative to work with senior management and labor relations to ensure a successful program.

But, I already do that.
Most fleet managers think they have a driver behavior program. It may be part of the daily pre-trip inspection to maintain proper tire pressure. You continually discuss the importance of not overloading vehicles and hold briefings on how to be a more efficient driver. Seeing real savings requires the fleet department take an active role. This is where driver training programs, paired with active feedback, can realize results. There are plenty of organizations that provide driver training; however, for a program to be successful, it has to include a mechanism for positive feedback. Operators are rarely concerned with direct operating costs, such as fuel consumption. Providing a layer of positive feedback often adds an incentive to improve. This can be as simple as in-house contests to monetary incentives.

What’s in the bottom line?
If you have successfully implemented positive behavioral changes with your drivers, there are several direct savings. The most obvious is improved fuel economy. Some others include extended brake life, reduced wear to suspension and steering components, and extended tire life. However, one of the most important enhancements that is often not seen on a budget line is lowering your risk exposure. Vehicle accident and crash incidents are often costly to the asset and organization. By implementing a positive driver behavior program, you have directly lowered this exposure.

If you would like to discuss this, or any other fleet issue with the NTEA contact Chris Lyon, NTEA Director of Fleet Relations, at info@ntea.com.