Old world philosophers can still teach us new concepts today

In 1687, Sir Isaac Newton published The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. Regarding the third law of motion, he states, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” That is, for every interaction is a pair of forces acting on the two interacting objects equal and opposite to each other. Although Newton’s laws of motion may not be directly related to cost reduction, the theory can be a beneficial application in the fleet community.

Process improvements can lead to fiscal savings
Like Newton’s law, we can adjust an outcome by improving the process; small process improvements can lead to fiscal savings. What does this actually mean, and how can you identify areas for improvement? Other than hiring a Six Sigma Master Black Belt consultant, take a look at your everyday operations to identify inefficient processes that can be adjusted. Some improvements may involve changing behavior. Others may require active participation from a fleet manager, while other improvements can be brought about by technology.

Improving energy management
Even with historic low fuel prices, your energy consumption can account for a significant amount of your overall operating budget. This can be a low hanging fruit for a process improvement. Consider a driver behavior modification plan. If you don’t currently have an active idle management strategy, I would begin here. What can you do to positively modify driver behavior? One challenge associated with this may be limited by labor relations issues, contractual limitations, and management policies. Before you begin, work with your labor relations and/or your management team to determine what you can and cannot do.

Beyond classroom training
In the beginning, the most basic level of driver behavior modification included posters and other printed media to make drivers aware of their driving habits. This was often followed by daily briefings, safety meetings and verbal training. In reality, you as a fleet manager have very little control once the operator leaves the lot. One option would be to employ active management systems on vehicles. Some of these include:

  • Automatic idle shutdown
  • Vehicle speed limiters
  • Vehicle acceleration rate limiters
  • GPS telematics

Another alternative, and often a lower cost option, is to actively change the behavior of your drivers. How do you accomplish this? While good labor relations need to be in order, one strategy is gamification. Friendly competition can go a long way in the workplace. Implemented correctly, this can be a powerful and rewarding tool. On the most basic level, you could assign drivers blind identifier codes and post scores of each driver (without creating any personnel issues). The sky can be the limit on this. Depending on your circumstances and fleet composition, simple fuel economy for a class of vehicles can be a base line. Additionally, you can chart fuel economy as it increases. If you have active telematics, you can score harsh acceleration / braking, idle time and also provide real-time feedback to drivers. As time goes on, you may notice some friendly competition among work crews. So, the game continues.


To discuss this or any other fleet issue with the NTEA, call 800-441-6832