As Head of Finance at a large firm in the utilities industry, Chris Stone helped to implement fleet initiatives that were projected to save £1 million. In part two of this guest blog, he explains how to implement a driver performance programme designed to boost efficiency and reduce cost.
Driver performance schemes can often be a tough sell within large organisations, despite the sizeable impact they can have on fleet efficiency.
In part one of this two-part blog, we looked at typical barriers to adoption and the importance of establishing a strong business case.
But once any initial problems have been overcome, the hard work starts in creating a performance programme that achieves buy-in from both management and drivers.
When we started out on this road at my previous job, there was some scepticism about the impact driver scoring would have in helping to transform the performance of individuals, let alone the impact it would have on the business as a whole.
However, if approached correctly, such schemes can be highly effective as they tap into people’s natural competitive instincts and actually provide them with the tools they need to improve.
It’s important to bear this in mind when implementing any initiative of this kind – the emphasis should be on coaching and empowerment rather than punishment. Ultimately, the results we achieved spoke for themselves.
I firmly believe that nobody sets out to deliberately drive badly but they sometimes drive badly because certain negative behavioural traits become ingrained over time.
So it was important for us not to approach driver performance in a punitive manner but to actively work with employees to ensure they were happy about what was being introduced.
As a result, I made an effort to go out to the business and conduct workshops with staff at all levels to tell them what was being proposed and invite feedback, questions and input. This helped to ensure I became more visible as a representative for the finance function, rather than a faceless figure making changes from afar.
Telematics was then used to score drivers on their performance, providing us with incredibly useful data for setting benchmarks and determining goals for improvement. We were cautious this might be viewed negatively by the engineers so we made sure the necessary framework was in place to help drivers improve through education and training.
Incentives for positive driver performance
Incentives are also useful in removing negative connotations. These might include financial bonuses, gifts or personal development rewards but can also be as simple as a trophy for the driver that finishes top of the performance league table, or access to the newest vans on the lot for the top performers.
Sometimes the solution is straightforward. We found that idling was a big problem and this was down to the fact engineers were sitting with the engine running while using their laptops as they were worried about running the vehicle battery down. But once we explained to them that the vans had two batteries and it would take two days of using the laptop to run the battery down, idling stopped. They just needed the knowledge.
In the end, most drivers actually enjoyed being scored as they viewed it like a computer game where they had to better their score every day. A number even told us they began to enjoy driving more and when performance is front of mind like that, it makes a huge difference.
To reinforce the sense of empowerment even further, we used OptiDrive 360 to provide employees with continuous feedback while driving. Some people argue this is a distraction but it’s only as much of a distraction as a speed limit sign as it provides audio or visual cues to help reinforce the performance message in a positive way.
Getting to grips with big data
Once a programme is in place, the main challenge faced by the business is organisation of the data.
Many organisations will install technology, such as telematics, in order to improve efficiency and will expect it to achieve results straight away. But these results will never appear unless it is supported internally and the business ensures it has the skills and personnel to organise the data.
Everyone is talking about ‘big data’ in a business context but nobody seems to be providing any solutions on how to deal with the sheer volume of data provided by technological platforms. As a result, people don’t believe there’s an ROI in fleet technology and it’s seen as a cost rather than a benefit but we never saw it as a cost.
In my previous job, we made sure the data was split into different segments, each of them owned by a different member of staff. This meant, the team leaders would get reports for their individual drivers, depot managers would get an overview of each team’s performance, regional management would see a collated report for all depots within their region and I would be able to get a snapshot on the performance of the entire business.
This meant we generated a picture for the overall impact on the business but could also dive deeper into the data to identify root causes for problems.
The implications of this for the business were huge and more organisations should wake up to the fact their fleet operations – and driver performance in particular – harbour huge potential for improving profitability in the long term.