Green Operations

Using Technology to Impact Driver Behavior

July 2011, Green Fleet Magazine - Cover Story

by Cindy Brauer - Also by this author

The power of telematics technology has been harnessed to impact the human variable in eco-conscious vehicle operations — the driver. Fleet managers are using the valuable data captured by in-vehicle telematic devices to promote and teach fuel-efficient, green driving habits among company drivers.

With data such as mph history, idling times, speed, and driver performance — transmitted wirelessly to their desktops,  laptops, or even smart phones — fleet managers can monitor and train drivers in eco-driving best practices. And hold accountable intractable gas-guzzlers and recalcitrant CO2-emitters.

The accounts of two fleet managers illustrate how telematics systems have helped reduce fuel costs and curtail corporate greenhouse gas production.

WaterOne Fleet Finds Success with Training & Tracking

Two years ago, when Stacy Clark joined WaterOne as fleet and building services manager, the Kansas water utility started focusing on sustainability measures throughout its operations. A 13-year fleet veteran, Clark first looked to vehicle right-sizing, assessing cost-per-mile data, including fuel, maintenance, and depreciation of the utility’s 300-unit service and maintenance fleet.

Riding with drivers, examining job descriptions, and analyzing functions, Clark realized some of the utility’s vehicle assets “may have been overkill.”

Migrating from V-8 pickups to a six-cylinder compact SUV nearly doubled vehicle fuel economy, Clark noted. His next move may be right-sizing the fleet’s large cargo vans to smaller units, such as the Ford Transit Connect.

Once right-sizing, baseline, and benchmarking measures were underway — 70 percent of the sustainability picture, said Clark — he next looked to company drivers.

“Roughly 30 percent of fuel efficiency is what the driver is doing. Even in a Prius, a driver can drive aggressively and too quickly,” neutralizing the vehicle’s fuel advantages, Clark pointed out.

“Give drivers the right tools [a right-sized vehicle], then training, coaching, and tracking their progress is the next piece,” he said.

Clark researched a variety of telematics providers, but found most systems too costly for his low-mileage fleet. “Most would never result in an ROI for us due to higher capital and running costs,” he said.

While at a NAFA Fleet Management Association meeting, Clark heard about GreenDriver offered by Donlen, which the fleet management company was piloting as the green fleet program. Featuring three products — GreenDriver Online Driver Training, DriverPoint Telematics, and GPS Reporting — the program focuses on driver behavior.

The GreenDriver four-module, online training program details CO2 emissions reduction and fuel economy management. Specifically, drivers learn how vehicle maintenance, trip pre-planning, and small changes in behavior can impact fuel consumption and CO2 output.

After successfully completing a final exam section, drivers print their Certified GreenDriver certificate.

DriverPoint Telematics provides a small, driver-installable device that measures and reports key driver behaviors, including rapid acceleration, hard stops, and speeding events. Monthly DriverPoint Scorecard reports benchmark individual drivers against fellow company drivers and the fleet against industry peers.

Clark calculated the GreenDriver cost — roughly half of other systems he considered — could provide a reasonable ROI, and he began a six-month pilot with Donlen last October. The results were impressive, said Clark:  a 5- to 10-percent gain in mpg, driven by a 70- to 90-percent reduction in negative driving events (acceleration, deceleration, speeding, and idle time).

“What was most remarkable was the reduction in aggressive driving offenses. From 10 hard brakes to just two; speeds over 70 mph were basically eliminated. An average idle time of 20 percent dropped to less than 5 percent, even in the winter time. All these results affected the fleet’s overall fuel economy,” Clark reported.

Armed with data on the fleet’s less-aggressive — and therefore safer — driver records, WaterOne is negotiating with its insurance carrier for lower premiums, a further ROI improvement, Clark said.

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